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Published online 19 December 2012
The Iraqi government's new draft budget makes no specific reference to science research, sparking fears that there will be no provision for necessary funding for the sector.
The government claims money for research will come from the operational budget of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. "The government is working hard to increase science spending in the next fiscal year," says Mohammad Al Saraj, director of research and development at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Several Iraqi researchers, however, have demanded there be a designated budget to support science in order to develop human capacities and make more funding available to researchers.
"Our ambitious long-term plan is to reach science spending levels similar to developed countries, and in the short term we want to have a specific percentage of our GDP going towards science research similar to neighbouring Arab states," says Al Saraj. "We acknowledge that science research is the tool to develop our country.
"But we still do not know how much money is allocated to that important sector because it does not appear on the annual budget."
Without a science budget, researchers have a weakened capacity to improve the country's weak science infrastructure, adds Al Saraj. "We need to start working on a proper science infrastructure, promoting a science culture and collaborating with other countries on research. Iraq does not have a single research institute similar to those in Europe or Southeast Asia."
Allocating a percentage of GDP to science research is important so it is not overlooked in favour of other issues, says Nahla Al-Mandalawi, a professor of psychology at Baghdad University. "Funding scientific research bears fruit in the long term. The crumbling infrastructure in the country means that legislators focus on short-term issues, with leftover crumbs eventually going into science research."
Najeebeh Najib, a member of the Finance Committee in the Iraqi parliament, says her committee is revising science spending in the country. "We are certain that scientific research, health, the environment, agriculture and education need more funding.
"Building human capacity is the primary aim of the government and parliament. Unfortunately, more money has been allocated since 2008 to the military and security."
The defence and security budget comprises 13.5% of the total annual budget, almost double the amount allocated to the whole education sector.