Identity crisis

The 25th academic assembly of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) has sanctioned a budget of Rs 66.7 million for this fiscal year, which is a substantial hike from last year’s budget of around Rs 33.5 million. NAST, the flagship body for development of science and technology in the country, has been hit hard by shortage of funds and qualified manpower ever since its establishment back in 1982. But there is much more than budgetary shortfalls to NAST’s dismal performance over the years. First, with the PM acting as chancellor and the minister for science and technology as co-chancellor, NAST has not been able to function as an autonomous body as envisioned. The result: Political patronage, not qualification, is the basis of employment and promotion; bureaucracy is shockingly inefficient.

NAST’s original four-pronged objective of advancement of science and technology for all-round development, preservation and modernisation of indigenous technologies, promotion of research in science and technology, and identification and facilitation of appropriate technology transfer remains as relevant today as it was in 1982. During the budget meet, PM G P Koirala highlighted the importance of incorporating youth in the field of science and technology. But NAST remains desperately short of new blood. Indeed, with very little to show on the ground, NAST is, with some justification, regarded as a token body only gobbling up the country’s precious resources. Time is ripe for reforming NAST.