Scientist accuses government of lying over science funding

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A leading scientist has accused Latvia of lying to the EU and the European Commission over projected spending on research and development in 2020.

National Development Plan

The National Development Plan (English) is Latvia's "highest national-level medium-term planning document". It sets forth the country's priorities and "determines the distribution of the development budget rather than the basic budget". As such, it covers Latvia's approach in attracting and using EU funds. 

Appearing on LTV October 17, Ojārs Spārītis, the president of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, said that Latvia has mislead European institutions by saying, in its non-binding National Development Plan, that its science funding will amount to 1.5% of GDP in 2020.

"Up until now we can only be proud that we have a tenth of that amount," said Spārītis.

What's more, he claimed it was confirmed to him by Education Ministry officials in a last week meeting that the promised funding is nothing more than a bluff.

"This 1.5% of GDP will never be reached with the current level of the state's policies and administration," Spārītis said, apparently referring to what he had heard at the meeting. 

Spārītis did say, however, that he supports the plan to raise research funding by €3.9m so that it reaches €14m next year.

He also said the Education Ministry is unable to manage science funding with sufficient quality.

"The ministry's team is unable to manage granting the funds, administering them, announcing programs, reviewing them and overseeing that the funding reaches its recipient," he said.

According to figures at the Education Ministry website, the funding for science will not increase either in 2018, or 2019 with even a small decrease projected. 

In 2017 government funding for science is €39,657,133. It is set to decrease to €39,406,391 next year and €39,076,266 in 2019. 

Nevertheless, the Education Ministry website still claims, in its English-language website apparently dating back to Latvia's 2015 Presidency of the EU, that by "2020 the government aims at a 1.5% GDP funding for research and development," of which half would come from private sector investments.

In 2016 Latvia's GDP totaled around €25 billion, so 1.5% of that amount would be equivalent to €375 million. Even if half of that money came from private sources, that would still require state funding of €187.5 million.

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