Last update: 04-Dec-2013 12:33 pm
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Don’t cut research budget—Sankat
University of the West Indies (UWI) campus principal Clement Sankat has called on Finance Minister Larry Howai to allocate more money for the field of research in the upcoming budget. Speaking at the launch of the campus’s research expo scheduled for first week of October, Sankat said he had been told government funding for research was being threatened. “At a time of the national budget, I am appealing to our honourable Minister of Finance to find ways and means to increase the national budget for research,” he said.
He said the government should reconsider the cut in funding, in the interest of the university and by extension the country, as research was directly linked to development. “This is a little drop of funding in the bucket,” he said of the $7 million-$8 million provided annually for UWI’s research by the government. This little funding, he said, made up 0.05 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “The benchmark for any decent country is one per cent.”
He said even if the government moved the decimal point one place, and made the figure 0.5 per cent, it would be “a significant sum of money.” He compared the level of investment between T&T and the European Union (EU), saying the latter pledged €80 billion to support research for development. He said funding in T&T should be doubled, tripled or quadrupled, but not cut. “That is how we would truly make the transformation that we want to make,” he said.
He added, however, that money should not just be thrown at any type of research, but should be focused and directed to create a fertile environment to receive the funding, and the impact should be measured afterward. He suggested that Howai invest in research within “a very strategic framework.” “It has to be value for money,” he said. He said in that way, the research can be harnessed to produce the kind of impact that was needed.
Sankat said many people just saw UWI as a institute of teaching and learning, and did not know about the type of research the university did. That was why the university had partnered with National Gas Company (NGC) to host a research exposition to showcase some of its work from October 1 to 5. NGC has provided a $500,000 grant to UWI for the five-day exhibition, which will be open to the public, free of charge.
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