The dispute over budget for Higher Education Commission (HEC) for the new fiscal year persists as the federal government is reluctant to approve the demanded amount.
The HEC has forwarded the proposal for an allocation of Rs48 billion for the new fiscal year, 2011-12, with the breakup of Rs31 .5 billion for recurring expenditure and Rs16.5 billion for development expenditure.
However, the finance ministry and planning commission have not finalised the funds for higher education amid the financial crunch in the country. Moreover, the controversy of the proposed devolution of the HEC to the provinces is contributing to this uncertainty.
Sohail Naqvi, Executive Director HEC, while talking to The Express Tribune said negotiations were underway with the finance ministry officials to get the budget proposals approved.
When contacted, Asif Sheikh, head of Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) of the Planning Commission (PC), said that the commission had received the proposal from HEC for the development expenditure, which is more than the previous year. He added that the allocations have not been finalised so far. “The gap is not that big between the allocation of the previous year and demands for this year and it could be met if we receive the required funding,” he said.
However, sources said that the finance ministry is not ready to allocate the demanded recurring expenditure of the commission due to financial crunch. Last year, Rs29.1 billion funds were allocated for recurring and Rs15.5 billion for development expenditure of HEC.
The commission has been in the limelight after the government’s sudden decision to devolve it to the provinces. However, the plan was put off for the time being after a widespread reaction from across the country. Moreover, Supreme Court issued an interim verdict directing the government not to devolve the HEC to the provinces till enacting of a new law in this regard.
A source in the commission said that the HEC is still afraid of what he termed a conspiracy against the commission. It was also learnt that the government is all set to amend the HEC Ordinance to shift some of its key powers to the provinces including its financial matters. The high ups of the HEC on the other hand are making hectic efforts and mobilising the media to save the body from being dismantled. “We are still striving to ensure that we retain our position in the centre,” he said.
The official said that HEC chairman has written two letters on March 26 and April 1 to the prime minister seeking a meeting aimed at motivating him to retain the body in the centre with the justification that the devolution could not ensure uniformity of the higher education in the country.
However, there was no response from the PM secretariat despite many verbal reminders from the HEC. The HEC officials said that the chairman wants to have a constructive meeting with the premier before finalising the budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2011.
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