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The core of development
The scientific and technological sector plays a crucial role in national development, and the country’s Doi Moi (Renewal) achievements are testimony to the sector’s contributions, according to Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan.
Vietnam has achieved impressive annual GDP growth of 7-8 percent over the past three decades. From a poor food importer in the 1980s, the country has emerged today as one of the top three rice exporters in the world.
Thanks to scientific and technological advances in agriculture, Vietnam has crossbred livestock and seedlings that can tolerate different weather conditions and produce high yields.
Health care has developed and doctors in the country today are able to perform complex surgeries, using high-tech equipment. Vietnam now also manufactures modern medical equipment, thereby reducing similar imports.
Industrially, the country has succeeded in manufacturing state-of-the-art equipment and products to replace imports, which has helped lower prices and production costs.
The Law on Science and Technology has been formulated, laying a firm foundation for scientific and technological development in the country.
Tran Quoc Khanh, a senior official from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), says between 1996 and 2011 the number of sci-tech organisations has tripled, from 519 to 1,500, and the number of personnel correspondingly increased threefold, from 22,300 to 60,500.
He says the quality of staff working in the field has also improved greatly to meet the country’s socio-economic development demands during the Renewal process.
However, MOST Minister Quan argues that human resources for science and technology have yet to live up to expectations.
It is high time that Vietnam poured more investment into science and technology research and development and produced qualified human resources, says Quan.
Vietnam has 3.6 million university graduates, as well as 38,000 master’s and 16,000 doctorate degree holders, and more than 10,000 professors.
The country should make full use of this potential source of quality personnel to keep pace with present and future economic development, says the minister.
The role of business
The State allocates two percent of its total budget for scientific and technological development every year. The figure is not low compared to the average in other countries, but is rather low compared to total social investment capital, according to the minister.
He quotes statistics as saying businesses currently invest US$300 million annually in science and technology research and development. This figure represents nearly half the total US$700 million the State allocates for science and technology, and a relatively low figure compared to other countries in the region and the world.
The fact is that businesses rely heavily on State investment, and very few, especially those that are State-owned, are interested in developing science and technology, says Quan.
That’s why limited budget allocations and bottlenecks in financial and investment mechanisms bar science and technology development, Quan confides.
Production efficiency would improve significantly and businesses would benefit greatly if they poured investment into sci-tech R&D. Based on the analysis, Minister Quan says that investments from other sources should be double the State allocation for sci-tech R&D.
The minister suggests that with their powerful financial resources, businesses should join hands with the State to invest in science and technology.
In a master plan to be submitted to the Prime Minister, the MOST has proposed that businesses allocate 10 percent of their pre-tax profits for science and technology R&D.
Several businesses have, in fact, pioneered sci-tech R&D for production. The military-run telecom group (Viettel) and the Rang Dong Light Source and Vacuum Flask Joint Stock Company are two cases in point.
Every year Viettel spends 10 percent of its pre-tax profits (around VND2.5 trillion) on scientific research. It has established a sci-tech R&D, and has manufactured a switchboard network to replace imports and save costs.
Meanwhile, Rang Dong Company allocates up to 20 percent of its pre-tax profits for sci-tech R&D annually. It has established a large research and development centre, and manufactures many affordable high quality technological products, which benefits consumers.
If businesses pay attention to sci-tech investment, they will stand firm in the market, says Quan.
To add fresh impetus to sci-tech development, the minister suggests revising and issuing legal documents and policies that reflect the actual production and social development in the country, and provide incentives and good working conditions for scientists and researchers.