Very Little Interest in Science

Only three of the nine Costa Rican presidential candidates attended a debate on what is considered the biggest national challenge in science and technology:  Increasing investment in research and development to 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The activity was organized by the National Council for Scientific Research and Technology (CONICIT).  The candidates were made aware of the event about two months ago, according to director Walter Fernandez.

The activity was attended by candidate Walter Muñoz (National Integration Party), Otton Solis (Citizens’ Action Party) and Eugenio Trejos (Broad Front).

“The absence of the candidates is very unfortunate.  This indicates that they did not give the matter the importance that it merits.  They are not interested,” said Fernandez.

According to the official, Otto Guevara (Libertarian Movement) and Rolando Araya (Patriotic Alliance) excused themselves from participating in the event.

Laura Chinchilla (National Liberation Party) proposed sending a representative, but CONCIT sent the invitation under the explicit condition that the Costa Rican presidential candidates would have participate in person.

Currently, spending on research and development in Costa Rica is around 0.32% of the GDP, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Based on international comparisons, the amount proposed by CONCIT is 1%.  Countries like Brazil spend 1.1%, the USA 2.66% and Sweden 3.73%.

Candidates Trejos and Muñoz favored working toward that goal, while, Solis pledged to reach 0.63% of the GDP in 2014 or double the current investment.

“I do not want to commit to that number (1%).  However, I would feel ashamed not to be able to go above the Latin American average, which was 0.67% in 2007,” said the Citizens’ Action Party candidate.

Solis added that one of the actions that he would use to  increase investment would be to apply fiscal credit or tax breaks to any part of the private sector that is working specifically on applied innovation to protect the environment.  

For his part, Muñoz suggested focusing on scientific and technological research for agricultural development in order to achieve food security in Costa Rica.  Muñoz stressed the importance that development banking could have on this matter.

Finally, Trejos, the broad front candidate, proposed to unify science and technology laws, which are currently being processed in the Legislature, to provide incentives to academic staff and approve the necessary fiscal stimulus.

To some, it is really worrying to know that there is no defined north for science in Costa Rica.  The lack of participation by the candidates shows that there is no real interest in this subject, in spite of the importance of technological and scientific research in this country.  If more funds are not devoted to research and development, it will make it even more difficult for Costa Rica to compete on a global level.


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