For wishful thinkers, there will be no surprises in the upcoming budget.
In line with its previous allocations, the government plans on allocating less than 2% of its budget to higher education and almost 20% to the military.
Authorities are considering allocating Rs47.8 billion to higher education in the upcoming budget, which amounts to 1.8% of the proposed total budget of Rs2.738 trillion.
The proposed allocation is 5% higher than the current allocation, and 20% lower than what the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had requested, sources say.
In contrast, the federal government has proposed Rs545 billion for defence for the next fiscal, which is 10% higher than the current year’s budget of Rs495 billion. The amount on account of army’s pensions and some external defence assistance is not included in the proposed allocation.
Compared to the total size of the economy, estimated to stand at Rs24 trillion for fiscal 2012-13, higher education allocation is 0.2%, while defense allocation is 2.3, of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to a 2007 research paper, “countries spend in general between 0.8 and 1.5% of their GDP in subsidising higher education.”
While education has been devolved to the provinces after the 18th Amendment, the HEC remains with the federal government.
Breakdown of allocation
Providing further details, sources said the HEC had requested about Rs60 billion for the next fiscal – Rs21.6 billion for development and Rs38.3 billion for non-development expenses.
Authorities, however, have suggested allocating Rs15 billion for development, and Rs32.8 billion for non-development expenses.
For the outgoing fiscal, the revised non-development budget was Rs31.5 billion while the development budget of the HEC was Rs14 billion.
The government had originally proposed Rs26.6 billion for non-development expense but had to increase the allocation after faculty protested against delay in disbursements of their salaries.
The Annual Plan Coordination Committee, headed by deputy chairman Planning Commission, will soon start reviewing the recommendations of the Priorities Committee, and table to the National Economic Council, headed by the prime minister, for final approval.
Less than required allocations are likely to affect the operations of the HEC in the next year, including salaries and the foreign scholarship programme.
The HEC and the finance ministry have been at loggerheads over the former’s finances since 2010. The finance ministry has been asking the HEC to generate its own funds if it wants to provide scholarships.
Due to funding constraints, the number of students going on foreign scholarships has drastically dropped to almost 250 per year, down from 700.
“There is huge difference between what has been allocated and what we sought and this will significantly impact our operations next year; universities situated in far flung areas will especially be affected”, said HEC executive director, Dr Sohail Naqvi.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.