Setting aside the priorities of the department regarding our niches and thrusts in the near future, let us look at a small glimpse as to the economics behind science and technology in our country based on the assumption that we follow Secretary Montejo’s plans along with the present actions of the department. This would be analyzed according to the frameworks based on nationalism and globalization.
For several years, the Department of Science and Technology has hosted several Balik Scientist Programs and funded a number of DOST scholarships to the undergraduates and graduates taking Science courses. Based on these projects, I am assuming that the department wants to lure the great scientific minds back to the country, initiating the nationalistic approach. But would this help our country’s recovery for sustainable growth, aside from the supposed scientific revolution that scientists normally look at?
One of the leading or most popular theories behind our slow scientific development would be the brain drain phenomena. This includes the migration of several great thinkers in our community, including scientists. The department makes an effort to solve this, by creating service bonds and perks to both the students and the professionals. As much as I want to applaud their attempts, what they are trying to do to the future scientific pioneers is creating shackles for the sake of service and hypothetical development. This impedes the participants’ initiatives to excel in their fields for the country’s scientific progress.
Another theory underlying the observed phenomena and migration would be the underemployment offered by the country’s public and private sectors. What is there to expect for us in the future when not everyone under the science field would be supported? True, there will always be the existence of the marginalized, aside the economic and political perspectives presented in newspapers.
We cannot say to the science minority, “Look, we cannot support you. That’s that but we can offer you publicity back in your home country.” We know for a fact that our media severely recognizes Filipino scientists who obtain international achievements abroad yet we expect that their service would also directly help in our assumed economic boom in the country. Just count how many alumni in the Physics or Chemistry Department who’ve gone beyond borders just to be supported by research grants and at the same time, make it to the most popular scientific journals in the world. Let’s face it. There aren’t enough jobs or domestic support for scientists in our country despite our policy makers’ awareness of including science and technology advancements as a key to economic development.
It’s funny that aside from the nationalism the department is trying to reinforce in us, it also wants to be globally competitive as well. Globalization as I’d recall is one of the Millennium Development Goals in our country. The government would support OFWs and the BPO sectors, thinking that these could give a huge impact for economic growth.
Related to my earlier point on underemployment are the funding priorities of the department. Last week, I was a participant in one of the tours offered by the Department of Science and Technology. We were assigned to look at the different equipment the Material Science Division has in store. Almost 90% of the tools dated back to the 1970s and were donated by the Japanese. It seems that aside from the research grants and scholarships that the department has planned long ago in their budget, there’s also the need to budget research facilities. At this point, I am not saying that foreign aid is bad. What bothers me is the lacking initiative of the department to step up the notch and create new ways in evolving the country’s S&T progress as compared to other countries.
Besides the source of funding what about tackling the sources of the country’s GDP growth or sustainable development? Past presidents brag about the economic contribution of the OFWs and the BPO industries in our country. I can’t really argue professionally with their plans; they are the economists while I am the physicist. It is just sad that we are giving the upper hand to getting immediate economic results while suffering the long-term sustainability we could get such as developing other factors of production such as science and technology. It’s like comparing the pros and cons of vocational courses to the pure science courses and their contribution to the country’s economic and sustainable development.
One would recall in basic Macroeconomics that investments and savings can’t compete with technology. As I refer back to my earlier post, we keep in mind that science and technology advancement is a two-way growth. I am not saying that the government and most especially the Department of Science and Technology needs a major overhaul in creating solutions to uplift the development status of our country. We should as well be giving way to baby steps for such issues.
The Philippines can’t just give a nudge to the science and technology based sector. It is the seed that bears fruit to what may be the country’s bean stalk.