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Address by Honourable CC Mathale during the 2017 Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology Budget Vote

Honourable Chairperson Honourable Minister of Science and Technology Honourable Members

Twenty-one years ago, we introduced the concept of the National System of Innovation, which influenced the direction of the Department and the country as a whole. It is still our strong view as the African National Congress that a coherent and well-co-ordinated National System of Innovation would go a long way in assisting our country to achieve its development priorities.

Therefore, it is imperative that we should continue investing our efforts in realizing the objectives of the National Research and Development Strategy and most importantly assess progress registered under the 2007 Ten-Year Innovation Plan, which identified priority areas for our country in the spheres of science, technology and innovation.

Honourable members, in 2015, we clearly stated that science, technology and innovation offers immense opportunities to grow our economy and create quality job options for our people. The ever changing dynamics of our times reveals that the mining industry, which played a pivotal role in shaping our current economic outlook is no longer sustainable and reliable.

This means as a country we have no option, but to be innovative and invest fortunes in the development of science and technology. The technological competitiveness of our firms and industry must be gauged by their innovativeness.

We must use Science, Technology and Innovation to modernize our agriculture and agro-processing industry, including other important sectors of the economy. The automotive and communication industry have the potential to accelerate our economic growth and such potentials ought to be thoroughly researched and exploited.

The National Development Plan has correctly identified Science, Technology and Innovation as a crucial arsenal in our determination to free our people from the swamps of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment.

We must continue funding research, development and innovation infrastructural projects. Invest more in human capital development through funding postgraduate education in the areas of scientific research, innovation and technology.

We have a pressing obligation to finance the production of new generation of patriotic scientists such as artisans and technicians. Creating partnerships with international agencies has yielded positive results in the production of military hardware and a lot more can still be achieved.

We are producing some of the best and advanced military equipment in the world and through continued investment in the development of new technologies our standing in that space will improve more and more. Mastering re-engineering that is empowered by advanced technological innovations must be our strong point as a country.

Therefore, partnering with multinational institutions and allies is one of the viable avenues that must be pursued, for they have the potential to boost our science and technology chest.

It is our clear resolve to build an inclusive economy that is based on sustainable programmes, which have meaning to the hopes and aspirations of our people. Therefore, we support the Department in using the next five years to intensify efforts to exploit and use knowledge for economic and inclusive development, whilst at the same time expanding and transforming the country's research capabilities.

The enhancement of the implementation of the Bioeconomy Strategy, using bioinnovation as the mechanism to achieve industrial and development goals must remain on the priority list of the Department.

Although the budget has been decreased by R319.7 million in the 2017/18 financial year, we must never disinvest in the key pointers necessary to contribute towards realizing the objectives of our National Development Plan. This decrease in the budget must not be interpreted as neglect or undermining the enormous responsibilities and mandate of the Department.

Although we are convinced that through this budget of R7.6 billion, the Department can still move forward, in meeting its nine-point plan objectives, efforts must be made to get more funding from Treasury. As part of the nine-point plan objectives, the ideas behind Operation Phakisa that intent to expose our country to oceans economy must remain on course, including other objectives of Plan

Therefore, as the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, after considering the proposed Budget Vote 30: Science and Technology, we recommend that:

  • As said earlier, all mechanisms to increase the budget allocation to the Department of Science and Technology must be pursued by the Ministers of Science and Technology and that of Treasury.
  • The committee notes and welcomes two very important monitoring and evaluation instruments. 1. the results of the recently released annual R&D Survey and 2. the NACI Science technology and Innovation indicators whereby SA progress are measured and benchmarked internationally. The Committee looks forwarded that the Department brief the committee on these outcomes as well as a report to the Committee on possible measures to resolve the issues around the Research and Development Programmes Tax Incentive Initiative.
  • The Department should table, as soon as possible, the 2015/16 and 2016/17, Research and Development Programme Tax Incentive performance reports. The Committee will schedule a briefing in the following term for this purpose.
  • Government should investigates formulating a policy that exempts State-owned entities, with the required expertise, from tendering for government research contracts that fall within their mandate. The Committee will schedule the necessary briefings to facilitate discussion on this matter.
  • The House adopts Budget Vote 30: Science and Technology.

Thank you!

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