Malaysia recently celebrated its 5th year hosting the International Centre for South-South Cooperation for Science, Technology and Innovation (ISTIC), a platform for knowledge sharing and capacity building under UNESCO. According to UNESCO, “Malaysia's commitment and clear policy to drive science, technology and innovation has put the country on the right track to achieve developed-nation status.” Coinciding with the recognition of Malaysia’s commitment to science, the release of ASTI’s Country Note, produced in collaboration with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), prompts the question of whether the country’s investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) also reflects this commitment.
The analysis found that public agricultural R&D investment in Malaysia has remained high compared with many other developing countries. Spending has become more volatile in recent years due to fluctuations in government funding levels, however. Staffing levels increased, primarily reflecting the recruitment of younger, BSc-qualified researchers. The country’s growing researcher capacity measured against a decreasing number of farmers led to a higher ratio of researchers to farmers.
UNESCO states that, “as a high middle-income country striving to attain high-income status, Malaysia has made science, technology and innovation a cornerstone of its development strategy. It invests 1.07% of its GDP in research and development, making it one of ASEAN’s leaders in this area.”
ASTI data indicates that Malaysia similarly spends about 1% of its agricultural GDP on agricultural R&D. In comparison, while this rate is much higher than the average for developing countries (less than half a percent), the average for high-income countries is 3%. To build on the solid foundation of public agricultural research, issues of concern include ongoing maintenance of capacity and infrastructure given funding fluctuations, and the training and mentoring of junior staff needed to replace retiring senior staff over the coming decades.
''Education and technology are huge game changers. You have to create opportunities and possibilities for people to develop their talent and also to attract global ones," said Prime Minister Najib Razak in reference to Malaysia’s Educational Blueprint. Opportunities and possibilities in agricultural R&D also abound, especially in strengthening the country’s ability to meet current and emerging challenges such as food and nutrition security and climate change.
For the full country note, please see: http://asti.cgiar.org/publications/malaysia-note
For more resources on Malaysia: http://asti.cgiar.org/malaysia
Data can be downloaded from ASTI’s data tool: http://www.asti.cgiar.org/data/