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R&D spend may remain below 1% of GDP even after 25 years: Economic Survey

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IANS New Delhi
Already lagging behind many in expenditure towards research in science and technologies, India may take years -- more than 25 years at current rate of its GDP and spending on R&D -- before it touches even one per cent as contribution of GDP towards research, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18 released on Monday.
Spending about 0.6 per cent of its total Gross Development Production (GDP) towards Research and Development (R&D), India "at its current rate ... would barely reach GERD (Gross Expenditure on R&D) of one per cent of GDP by the time it is as rich as the US", read the report.
Using a "development time" model -- which allows one to compare country's spending as a portion of its GDP irrespective of income groups -- the report concluded that India "currently underspends even relative to its income".
Going by what Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said last week about India being on its way to becoming "one of the largest three economies in the world" in 25 years, it is fair to conclude that it would still be far behind US's GDP size and its contribution to research as portion of GDP still less than one per cent after 25 years from now.
According to the report, India's contribution towards research is "well below" that of "major nations", with the US contributing 2.8, China 2.1, Israel 4.3 and Korea 4.2 per cent of their GDPs towards science.
Although in real terms, India has doubled its spending on R&D, as a percentage of GDP, its spending has been stagnant at 0.6 and 0.7 in last one decade.
The report pointed out how a dominant bulk of spending on research funding comes from the central government (more than 50 per cent) unlike China, the US, Germany and Korea -- where government contribution was nearly equal to or less than 10 per cent, with the major funding coming from businesses and industries.
On the whole, emphasising on the increase in overall spending in real terms, a government official conceded that western pattern in research is different from India's.
"Major difference between western countries and India is that private sector in the West invests a lot in research and development. In West, about two-thirds is invested by the private sector and one-third by the government, however this is roughly opposite in India...
"The GDP of India is rising faster than the western world, so the actual money spent over research and development is increasing," Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary at Department of Science and Technology, told IANS.
The writers of the report also expressed their concern at the research fund contributed (the least among government agencies) by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), considering the "health challenges" being faced by the nation.
"Given the country's severe health challenges, the low -- and virtually stagnant in real terms -- budget of the ICMR is striking," it read.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at Rs 13,258 crore and Department of Space (DoS) at Rs 5,818 crore were the top two government agencies with funding.
--IANS
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First Published: Jan 29 2018 | 10:30 PM IST

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