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Education schemes to continue to suffer under current budget plan

While the government makes tall claims of providing education to the citizens this is not reflected in the budget for the fiscal year 2017-18, which shows a decline in the amount earmarked for education. The government has allocated Rs2,961.926 million for the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training for fiscal year 2017-18 in the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP). A total amount of Rs576 million has been earmarked for new schemes of the Ministry of Federal Education, while Rs2,385.926 million would be spent on the ongoing schemes. The allocated amount for the new important schemes includes capacity building of education managers, with total funding of Rs26 million, while Rs500 million has been earmarked for National Education Reforms Initiatives. An amount of Rs50 million has been allocated for the teaching of the Holy Quran in BECS (Basic Education of Community School) and NCHD (National Commission for Human Development) schools.

The ongoing schemes of the Ministry of Federal Education includes establishment of National Curriculum Council (NCC) Secretariat for which Rs39 million have been earmarked, while Rs40 million would be spent on the National Best Teacher Awards and National Teachers Training Institute. An amount of Rs16 million has been allocated for Vocational Schools in public private partnership while 1,467 million would be spent on the establishment and operation of Basic Education Community Schools in the country. A total of Rs737 million has been allocated for improving Human Development Indicators in Pakistan with focus on MDG’s relating to education and six EFA Goals.

The government has announced that it will be spending Rs35 billion for the purpose of higher education. More money will be spent on the human capital development of the country.

ALLOCATION BY PROVINCES

Sindh will spend major share of the annual budget – 28% percent – on education and literacy in fiscal year 2017-18. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government has increased allocation for elementary and secondary education by 17 percent to Rs138 billion in the provincial budget 2017-18. The government of Punjab has allocated Rs345 billion for education in the 2017-18 budget, which is 17.51 per cent of the total allocation (one percent less from 2016-17). The government of Balochistan has allocated Rs45.2 billion or 16.5% in their annual budget.

 

FINANCIAL LITERACY

One of the key strengths of Pakistan is the demographic bulge especially growing proportion of youngsters unlike some of the developed countries, which are having increasing proportion of aged citizens.

Pakistan has capacity to send across large number of young unskilled and semi-skilled people. Having over 30 million plus population in the age group of 25-35, Pakistan can put this valuable asset for the good of the country by imparting training in different technical fields to respond market needs abroad. Certainly, there is no second opinion about restricting the flow of manpower to different countries as it brings both social and economic benefits to our country such as it reduces poverty and unemployment, it helps increase foreign remittances which could be diverted to viable development projects. The returning workforce brings back the experience and knowledge that facilitate in technology transfer, skills development and knowledge exchange.

BASIC OF IMPROVEMENT

There is no doubt a large labor force is available; but there is a dire need for the training and development of this manpower export. 85 percent of our outgoing workers are illiterate both in terms of education and in terms of financial literacy. If we can tap them and train them properly before sending them abroad, then not only can we prevent them from using informal channels for sending their remittances but also give them basic financial literacy and can improve financial inclusion in the country. Financial literacy is the need of the hour. In view of declining remittances and expulsion of expats from Gulf countries, it is pertinent to promote entrepreneurship through SMEs for which the corporate sector and academia must play their role by setting up funds for SME financing.

By spending less on education, we are losing on two counts. On one hand, our semi-skilled labor force could not fetch the much-needed foreign exchange for the country, while on the other hand, those wishing to pursue their dreams over here are constrained by illiteracy. It is important that the federal government must increases education budget to 4 percent of GDP only then provinces will be able to increase their allocations, as promise of increasing education budget to 4 percent of GDP was made by the government.While the government has tried to balance developmental and education expenses yet the promise of making education an important component of government priorities should have been kept in mind when allocating finances during the budgetary allocations for 2017-18, which can still be done by bringing in revisions and amendments in the finance bill.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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