Vietnam’s sci-tech enjoying new opportunities: paper

From 2014, the revised Law on Science and Technology is effective with many new changes and is expected to create new development for Vietnam’s science and technology. Report by the Vietnam Economic News.
From 2014, the revised Law on Science and Technology is effective with many new changes and is expected to create new development for Vietnam’s science and technology. Report by the Vietnam Economic News.

Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan said: “This is an important legal foundation to implement breakthroughs for scientific and technological research and application and reduce the brain-drain.”

T he Law on Science and Technology was first enacted in 2000 and became effective from January 1, 2001. Since then, there have been many changes to the country as Vietnam have become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, actively involved in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) activities and rose from an underdeveloped to a middle-income country. After the law, the ministry also drafted and submitted seven more acts to the National Assembly (NA) for approval.

Therefore, in face of the requirements of the new situation, this law was revised to create a legal basis for science and technology operation and management mechanisms. The revised law focuses on three major issues: investment in resources for science and technology, financial mechanisms for sci-tech activities, and treatment policies for the working staff.

“These are three core issues of not only the revised Law on Science and Technology but also of a scientific and technological development strategy," the minister affirmed.

He analysed that in terms of investment, the development of science and technology is mainly based on the state with not very large number of enterprises investing in science. In the annual total funding for science of more than 1 billion USD, that from the state budget is approximately 700 million USD and the remaining, from enterprises. This is completely different in developed countries where most of the money for scientific and technological research comes from businesses, and the state funding is only about 25-30 percent to pay for basic research and research projects of strategic importance.

Particularly, there’s a fact that the Ministry of Science and Technology cannot regulate the 2 percent of the state budget investment for science and technology due to too many management agencies but it has to assume responsibility before the Government and the National Assembly for this amount of capital.

Quan said in reality, the ministry administers only 10-11 percent of the 2 percent national spending in science and technology and the remaining 90 percent are of other ministries, sectors, provinces and cities and are spent following allocations of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Finance. For this reason, it is very difficult for the Ministry of Science and Technology to assume responsibility for the efficiency of the state’s funding spending on science and technology.

As for the financial mechanism, for a long time, the Ministry of Science and Technology still had to work out the annual financial plans and budget estimates for scientific tasks. However, it takes about one year and a half to get the state funding to carry out their works. During that period, many generations of mobile phones were brought into the world, for example, and many projects then were considered backward.

Not to mention the price fluctuation, the increased prices of scientific equipment along with many other expenses created difficulties for scientists. Payment procedures were also complicated, therefore scientific units have to turn back certain amount of the state funding to the state budget as it could not be disbursed. In addition, what the Vietnamese scientists need most at this time is to have labs, research equipment and documents and if possible is more rights to use the state budget and appoint staff to different posts.

The revised Law on Science and Technology specified that in addition to the two percent allocation from the State budget, enterprises have to partly extract their pre-tax profit to reinvest in research and development (R&D) through their sci-tech development funds or contributions to the sector or local sci-tech development funds. However, they will also get loans from the state funding with preferential interest rates or other assistance to have the loans.

Management and use of the state funding for sci-tech research are also basically revised through the establishment of the National Science and Technology Development Fund and other similar funds at provincial level. In addition, every organisations and individuals have rights to offer their research ideas via their projects. On that basis, sci-tech organisations will gather and select the ideas and place orders on scientists. This model is seen as an optimal choice to attach sci-tech research with practical issues.

Particularly, for the first time the revised Law on Science and Technology regulates that the Ministry of Science and Technology has clear rights and responsibilities for planning, suggesting the funding sources to implement sci-tech tasks as well as administering and monitoring the efficient use of these sources on a national scale. Other ministries and sectors will only play cooperative roles regarding their professionalism. The revised law also enables high-level scientists to invest material facilities and human resources to realise their ideas, encourage promotion for talented young scientists. They will also enjoy preferential treatments for individual income taxes from their incomes from sci-tech activities.

The new law also concretises a series of treatment policies in terms of salaries, bonuses for leading and high-talented scientists, overseas Vietnamese scientists and international experts who participate in research projects undertaken in Vietnam. “The success ratio in implementing scientific projects in the US does not exceed 20 percent. If Vietnam successfully adopts these ‘breakthroughs’, we can expect our success ratio to be from 10-15 percent,” Minister Quan said.-VNA

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