Chairperson, I would like to begin by thanking all the members who have participated in the debate for their contributions. It is clear that all members have an astute appreciation of the critical role that science and technology can play in our country, on the continent and globally. I am, therefore, very pleased by the support that we have received and the understanding shown by members of all the critical areas that we must address.
I do agree with hon members that we need an improved budget. Of course, I remind hon members that in terms of a new law they do have the power to make recommendations in respect of adjustments to the budget. I am hopeful that they are sharing their sentiments with members in other committees of Parliament.
Hon Smith, we have a commitment to 1% of GDP. It is not an aspiration, but a target that the department has set for itself. Sadly, I believe the achievement of that target did not follow as it should have done. So, when I say I believe we must aim for at least 1,5% by 2014 - or more, with your assistance and that of other hon members - we plan to follow through and achieve that target. We will not aspire. I don't believe in aspirations; I believe in following through. So, I believe we must have improvement. We must plan for improvement. We must fight for improvement and ensure that we do have better resourcing of research in the country.
In the European Union they have a 3% threshold, and this is set. I read in an article recently that the Ministers of Finance of EU countries are very unhappy about this. They argued that there should not be a hard-and-fast target, especially in these difficult economic times. The Ministers of Science and the science councils argued that such a threshold must be maintained; in fact, it should grow even further. So, I believe this is something we must pursue vigorously and not be shy about.
The development of a human capital strategy was delayed by the absence of a full complement of staff in that particular section in the department. We have now made the necessary appointments and I believe the committee was informed that, within the next few months, we will be coming to it with a strategy to indicate how we intend to proceed in respect of investment in human capital development in science and technology. We will be coming to the committee with that particular draft plan.
On the matter of the Technology Innovation Agency and the Space Agency, you must remember that these are new institutions. We had a number of entities in the country existing as distinct and separate components doing different work, either in biotechnology or in space science or other areas. These have existed as entities with their own rules on financial management, human resource practices, etc. We need to bring these entities under two major agencies with similar policies on human resources, salaries, financial management and so on.
To do that, you do need to take your time, particularly when, with TIA, you are dealing with more than one entity. There are several Brics that will now reside under the ambit of TIA. That is why I have said that it will take 12 to 24 months. I am not sure why 2013 was mentioned in the committee. I suspect it was a slip of the tongue on the part of a member who was very nervous in front of hon Smith. [Laughter.]
We are working very hard to ensure that the timeframe I have referred to is indeed achieved. We are addressing the organisational requirements and policy aspects that I have referred to, as well as the requirements of National Treasury, because we must meet their particular rules to begin to make our case for financing.
I am always a bit worried when organisations begin by arguing for increased resources before getting their establishment issues right. We believe the establishment issues must be addressed while these institutions also make use of the funding that is already available to them. There is funding allocated to the TIA entities. TIA is actually able to get off the ground, but its full operation - where we begin to see the results of an innovation agency - will, I think, be evident within the 24-month period I have referred to.
I think we should give them the space to really get the organisational structure right so that, when we make the argument to Treasury for the kind of resources that will begin to place us at a level where we have venture support that really enhances innovation in South Africa, we would do so in an orderly way. I would ask that Members of Parliament really support us in that regard.