Igor Lukšić, Montenegro's new prime minister and at 34 the youngest head of state in the world, has in one of his first official acts created a dedicated science ministry for the country. The move, however, has sparked some criticism and calls for Montenegro to instead invest more in research—the country currently spends only about 0.26% of its GDP on science.
Lukšić was a deputy prime minister in the government of Milo Djukanovic, the longest-serving leader in the Balkans, and took over after Djukanovic's surprising resignation last month, which some have linked to accusations of smuggling in the 1990s. In his 29 December speech to the Montenegro parliament accepting his new position, Lukšić announced that the government will continue with structural reforms of several sectors, including science, which it sees as a key to sustainable development. "I think that we need to pay special attention to science and support for scientific research. In collaboration with the World Bank, we will create a credit line which should help in achieving this goal. ... This is the reason I suggest that, for the first time, we create a dedicated Ministry for science," he said in his address.
Until Lukšić's decision, science in Montenegro fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Science. That entity will now be split, creating the Ministry of Education and Sport and a separate Ministry of Science. But the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), a nonprofit citizens organization in Montenegro, has questioned the need for a new ministry, releasing a statement saying that the country's greater need is more funds for science and research. The group hailed the new prime minister's interest in science as a positive move but added that prioritizing research could have been done within the original system. If the old Ministry of Education and Science could not cope with the challenges, it should have appointed more capable people, CCE said. The group called on the prime minister to reexamine the decision, prioritize science and education in the coming years, and help combat what they see as a continued presence of corruption in Montenegro's educational system.
The country's first science minister is Tanja Vlahovic, who was previously head of tourism faculty at the private University of "Mediteran" in Bar. She holds a Ph.D. in strategic management and leadership from the University of Belgrade.
Lukšić responded to some of the criticism in an interview with the daily Montenegro newspaper Pobjeda:
I was surprised about some of the reactions [to forming the new science ministry]. People objected, saying we shouldn't be spending more money on administration. But I have no intention of making this a huge ministry; instead, it could be one of the smallest ministries in terms of administration, but with an enormous importance. ... If the minister succeeds in motivating young people to stay here, so we link up with the European funds and stimulate research activities, then we'll have had a success. This could be another sector that provides young people with opportunities. In arts and sports we are slowly starting to get noticed.