Forward estimates show concerning trend

Forward estimates show concerning trend

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AMID Treasurer Rob Lucas's "hard hat, hi-vis budget", there's one set of figures I can't ignore - the downward trajectory of expenditure within PIRSA.

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AMID Treasurer Rob Lucas's "hard hat, hi-vis budget", there's one set of figures I can't ignore - the downward trajectory of expenditure within PIRSA.

This drop-off isn't unexpected. Forward estimates have shown it coming for years, but that makes it no less concerning.

Between 2018-19 and 2021-22, government expenditure within PIRSA will go from $238 million to $170m - a fall the government says we shouldn't be worried about. The only real reduction to the PIRSA budget, it says, will be $5m it is expected to clawback in "operational efficiencies".

While efficiency is a good thing on-farm, in business and governmental departments it usually means cutting back somewhere, and doing more with less.

Then there's the impact of inflation, which means spending $170m in 2021-22 isn't the same as spending $170m today.

Related reading:Primary Industries funding lacking in budget

SARDI figures contained in the budget papers are also worth mentioning. While the government has assured Stock Journal there will be "no physical reduction to SARDI", budget figures show the amount contributed to it from the state's coffers will go from $22.7m in 2018-19 to $19.3m in 2019-20.

The Institute's overall operating budget varies significantly from year to year, but if we take its partnership with the University of Adelaide and grants from the federal government and industry out of the equation, the numbers tell us that the state government is directly contributing less and less in dollar terms.

SARDI has done an impressive job of securing federal and industry funding, but there is no guarantee this will always continue at the same levels. Stable, long-term state government funding is needed to keep the best scientists in SA.

All farmers have benefited from SARDI's work in some way, and investment in research is widely considered to have an excellent return on investment.

The state government recently unveiled its plans to emulate the amazing achievements of Israel and make SA an agtech hub.

But perhaps there's another Israeli trait we could emulate here in Australia - investing heavily in research. World Bank figures show Israel invested a world-leading 4.27 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on research (across all sectors, not just ag) in 2015, while Australia was well behind on 1.9pc.

Strong investment in research attracts the world's best minds and encourages innovation.

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