Notice how the government reacted to the National Statistics’ Office ‘s latest data on Research and Development spending in Malta - “ up by 31% over 2009 “ , instead of “ still only 0.68% of the GDP , less than the EU recommended minimum of 2% - a mere one-third “. But that’s not surprising of GonziPN - everyone is used to it by now.
Pity that the NSO was so late in reporting on such an important aspect for our continuing economic advancement in a highly-competitive European, indeed global, scenario of deep recession bordering on a mild depression. In August 2012 one would have expected 2011 figures, not 2010. Data compilation on R & D is not as complex and time-consuming as for other statistical sections. It is possible that the dilatory blame can be laid on Eurostat’s doorstep for over-loosening its normal strictness on promptness from its associates.
The EU Commission constantly urges member states to spend no less than 2% of their GDP on R & D, even allocating some of its funds thereto. It aims to enhance the stock of innovative knowledge, not merely for cultural reasons, but equally to devise new applications in technology that would boost competitiveness in exports, the constant principal factor for their economic wellbeing.
And yet, at best Malta spends only a third of what is expected from it. In 2009 it was merely 0.5% of GDP, but went up sharply to 0.68% in 2010, totalling € 42 m. Nearly two-thirds of this amount ( € 26.2 m ) was incurred by the private business sector, and only 37.7 % ( € 15.8 m ) by the public sector, the bulk of which ( 34% ) in Higher Education.
Engineering and Technology comprised 41% of the total expenditure, not an unreasonable proportion, followed by Natural Sciences at 18%, and Medical Science at 13%. What is intriguing, however, is the spread of employees in the various R & D sectors. In 2010 total R & D employment was 1836, of whom 1117 worked only part-time thereon, which makes sense. Labour costs were given by NSO as comprising 64% of total expenditure, i.e. € 27 m, averaging € 14,600 per head, which also makes sense considering the preponderance of part-timers overall, but chiefly in the private sector. Curiously, this was only accredited with 825 employees (45%) from a total of 1836 - one would have expected over 1100 if employment were roughly proportionate to overall expenditure.
Perhaps it was the private sector which was responsible for the bulk of the capital outlays. This, if so, doesn’t reflect highly on the government. Certainly not something to boast about. For a change!