ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s policy framework contains a number of exceptional goals and objectives, including improved quality of education, elimination of all types of disparities and imbalances and significantly improved enrolment rates. However, in the current structure, the country is far from achieving the Vision 2025.
The vision has positioned human resource development at the top of national agenda by capitalising on social capital, strengthening it and improving the human skill base to optimally contribute to and effectively benefit from economic growth. But unfortunately, an analysis of the current year’s federal budget reveals how the wellbeing of citizens has been ignored by allocating more than 18% of the budget to defence needs. Even in today’s world of knowledge-based societies, Pakistan’s allocation for health and education is the lowest in the region.
According to the budget 2014-15 document, the education and health sectors have once again not received their due share. An amount of Rs74.031 billion has been earmarked for both sectors, showing an increase of only 1.5% compared to the previous year, which is insignificant considering the population growth and inflation hovering around 9%.
Of the amount of Rs74 billion, only 13.5% goes to the health sector. The development plan consists of ambitious schemes such as Metro bus services, Metro trains and a motorway from Karachi to Lahore.
In the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for 2014-15, major investment is envisaged in the energy sector, followed by transport and communications. Of the programme’s size of Rs1,175 billion, only Rs12.5 billion has been set aside for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
On the other hand, under pillar one of the Vision 2025, the government promises that a larger share of the gross domestic product (GDP), at least 4% to education and at least 3% to health, would have to be allotted to these sectors. The aim is to achieve universal primary education with 100% net primary enrolment, expansion of higher education coverage from 7% to 12% and increase in the proportion of population with access to improved sanitation from 38% to 90%.
The resource allocation does not show any political will to prioritise human development. In its current shape, Pakistan is the embodiment of a security state where human development barely attracts attention.
No close to reality
The budget is far from being poor-friendly. The myth of macro-stabilisation and its consequent trickle-down effect has disappeared. Misplaced priorities coupled with the shotgun approach to allocations will worsen economic slowdown.
At this juncture, the government needs to stabilise the economy, rebuild the eroded credibility, bridge the fiscal gap, re-establish confidence in public institutions and improve the investment climate. In parallel with its macroeconomic stabilisation programme, the government also needs to develop a comprehensive plan of structural reforms.
Pakistan must respond to such challenges effectively. This calls for a change in the mindset to incorporate the quest for excellence.
The writer is a researcher at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2014.
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