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Balochistan budget specially focuses on social sector

The PML-(Nawaz)-led Balochistan coalition government unveiled the provincial budget for fiscal year 2017-18 with a total outlay of Rs328 billion. The new budget envisages development program of Rs86 billion including Rs6.01 billion under foreign project assistance (FPA) and current expenditure of Rs242 billion. Almost 16.5 percent of the total development and current expenditure has been set aside for education and 7.4 percent for health.

Rs45 billion have been allocated for education sector in the provincial budget 2017-18. The provincial government has evolved a five-year Balochistan education sector plan under which not only new schools will be set up but also upgrading of existing schools will be carried out besides introducing early childhood education in the province.

The government plans to establish 725 new primary schools, upgrade 500 schools to middle level and 500 middle schools to higher level. An amount of Rs18 billion has been allocated for health sector in the provincial budget 2017-18 which has a five percent increase than the past year. The officials claim that the performance of health department is currently far better than the previous years as today the patients have improved health facilities at their doorsteps.

The analysis of investments in health and education is unified in human capital approach, which focuses on the indirect ability of education and health to increase utility by increasing incomes. Investment in human capital formation means investment in education and health sectors. A healthy population can work better for the economic progress of a country fully utilizing its capabilities and skills. Balochistan direly needs human capital to develop its vast natural resources. A closed and backward tribal society, difficult terrain, illiteracy, poor health indicators, ethnic diversity, and poor status of women are the key challenges to human development in the province. The experts believe that human development indicators in Balochistan are among the most challenging in South Asia and their improvement will need concerted efforts over the long term.

Education must be the top priority of the provincial government, which should provide both financial and technical support to improve primary enrolment and completion rates, reduce gender disparities, and encourage the private sector to participate in provision of education in Balochistan. Only the educated, skilled and healthy people can make the best use of the enormous natural resources of the province. Balochistan has a literacy rate of 39 percent, which is much lower than the national rate. The education sector has suffered from years of neglect and under-funding. Official statistics show a dismal state of education in the province, which constitutes 44 percent of the country’s total land mass. There are12,600 primary, middle and high schools for more than 22,000 settlements in the province. The province will have yet to establish 10,000 schools on war-footings to ensure provision of education to children across the province. It has 57,000 government teachers, while it needs 60,000 teachers more. The province has only 1.3 million school-going children out of total 3.6 million children.

Credible surveys place the province in the lowest rank of literacy rate among both males and females and the lowest ranking in the Gender Parity Index (GPI). It also lags behind all the three provinces in the Net Enrolment Rate (NER). There is a strong correlation between household income and school enrollment. Long walking distances, lack of basic amenities, and teacher absenteeism are some of the main factors, together with poor-quality teaching and learning materials, that are responsible for low enrollment. Income-based inequities are a leading cause of low access to school education.

The situation of educational facilities in all parts of the province excluding Quetta is worst. The major problem is lack of quality of instruction due to teacher absenteeism, poor facilities, and lack of school supplies. Quality of education is the major factor resulting in low enrolment and high dropout rates. Lack of access is a problem for certain remote population in Balochistan, as schools remain closed due to unavailability of teachers. Expansion of elementary and secondary schools may be required in certain locations to accommodate remote areas and increasing enrolment of students, especially girls. Special efforts are needed to rationalize resources and to improve the internal efficiency of the education system.

Stuck in the cycle of poverty, the children in poor households are found receiving no education. Household income and school enrollment are interlinked. Income-based inequities are the main reason behind low access to school education in the province. Dropout rate of children is higher in the rural Balochistan where schools lack the physical infrastructure and educational facilities. Most of the schools lack basic amenities like drinking water, latrines, and electricity. Most of the schools are either single- or two-teacher schools. There is extreme shortage of female teachers in rural districts. The literacy rate among the female is even less than 5 percent in most of the districts. The private sector has almost lost interest in providing education to the poor in rural Balochistan where the fragile public school infrastructure has failed to give better access to the poor and girls.

For obtaining health capital in the province, there is a dire need to resolve basic and pressing issues related to the health sector. The health indicators in Balochistan like infant and mother mortality, are poorer than any other province. Major causes of water-related diseases include lack of water supply and sanitation facilities, absence of proper sewerage disposal, waste mismanagement and contaminated water. These diseases can be prevented by facilitating the population with proper sewerage and sanitation disposal systems. In rural areas, the health status is relatively poor. Lack or absence of female health staff including female doctors in rural areas worsen the situation. According to an estimate, there is only one doctor available for 7300 persons in average.

Sustainable growth and poverty reduction objectives are concomitantly linked to significant investment in human capital. The province is yet to make significant attainments in the human development index (HDI), which focuses on measurable dimensions of human development such as living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Thus, HDI combines measures of life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy, and income. The government should work out a roadmap for development of human resources in the province.

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