Islamabad - The Ministry of Science and Technology has demanded Rs 3.1 billion from the government in the next fiscal year 2016-17 for 58 development projects.

The proposal was shared with the National Assembly Standing Committee on Science and Technology that met yesterday to discuss the budgetary proposals for the next year.

MoST Secretary Fazal Abbas Maken briefing the committee said budgetary allocations to the ministry under Public Sector Development Programmes (PSDP) has been the lowest in the region and less than 1 percent of total PSDP of the country. He said the ministry for the current fiscal year too had demanded over Rs 3 billion but it was allocated only Rs 1.51 billion for various development projects.

The current allocation under PSDP constitutes only 0.60 percent of total PSDP, he said. Pakistan merely spends 0.29 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product) on research and development and the volume of researchers per million is 162 in the country, he added.

Chairman Committee Tariq Bashir Chaudhry expressed shock over paltry allocations to research and development sector, asking why the Planning Division is so ignorant about the significance of such an important sector.

Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanveer Hussain opined that research and development is not on the priority list of the Planning Division. He said even the approved projects were denied funds later and due to delays in releases its cost increased resulting in huge loss to the government exchequer.

The 58 ongoing and new projects have been proposed in the sectors of nanotechnology, biotechnology, fuel cell research, water resources, renewable energy, quality assurance, and projects of public welfare.

Establishment of the campus of Comsats Institute of Information Technology in Quetta is also one the new projects. The committee members expressed displeasure over the delay in the execution of the project that was proposed in previous PSDP programmes as well.

Rector CIIT Junaid Zaidi said the project was delayed due to non-availability of land and non-allocation of funds by the government.

Establishment of 350 telehealth clinics through joint venture with provincial governments in Khyber Paktunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh, Southern Punjab and FATA is also one of the proposed development projects. The ministry also plans to install more water filtration plants under the ongoing safe drinking project depending upon the approval of the project.