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Balochistan’s new budget much focused on social sector

Last week, the Balochistan government announced a Rs419.92 billion budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 with a Rs41.71 billion deficit and with a development outlay of Rs100.57 billion. The provincial government specially focused on social sector in its budget and increased expenditure in multiple social sectors. Allocation for education has been increased by 10 percent, while health budget witnessed a 26 percent increase. Moreover the budget increased expenditure on social protection by 468 percent and on law and order by 11.7 percent. In the budget for FY2019-20, education will receive Rs58.14 billion, health Rs26.04 billion, social protection Rs5.6 billion and law and order improvement will take Rs38.59 billion. The province has decided that health budget will be decentralized from a provincial level to rural health centers. Funds have also been allocated in the budget for the establishment of universities and campuses for the first time.

Balochistan 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. In the rural areas, the health status is relatively poor. Lack or absence of female health staff including female doctors in rural areas worsen the situation. The government should work out a roadmap for development of human resources and social welfare attainment in the province.

Performance improvement in the educational arena can yield great potential returns in terms of development in Balochistan. Overall education levels cannot be improved without making a significant advance in the education of girls in the province. The social divide in enrollment along gender lines should be eliminated. For Balochistan with 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 and social development. 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. With low participation in general education and low completion rates at primary and secondary levels, the unemployment and underemployment rates in the province are higher than the national rates. The province has a poor record in educating girls. Only about one-third of girls, who should be in primary school, are enrolled in the province. The province’s gross primary school enrollment rates show a significant disparity between male and female enrollment.

The backwardness and poverty should be explicitly incorporated in the allocation of shared transfers, and they should be more comprehensively measured through an index that uses multiple indicators. These may be broadly categorized as socioeconomic and demographic indicators related to income and wealth, housing, transport and communication, education, health, gender equality, etc. for example, some of the indicators used in the human development index would be relevant. There is a high need to focus on improvement and formation of human capital for Balochistan to tap internal and external markets, and capitalize on market-driven economic growth. A healthy population can work better for the economic progress of the province fully utilizing its capabilities and skills. For obtaining this health capital in the province, there is a high need to resolve basic and pressing issues related to the health sector.

 

The situation of basic amenities and access to education is also far below the ratio of other provinces. Nearly one half of the local population relies on unprotected wells, ponds, canals, or streams for their drinking water needs. Drinking water is often polluted and distributed without treatment. According to an estimate, only in five districts (out of 30 districts), sanitation is accessible to more than 51% of the population; in nine districts adequate sanitation is available to 26–50% of the population, and in 13 districts, household sanitation coverage is only 4–25%. Access to sewage disposal infrastructure is largely absent. In most districts, less than 3% of the population has access to wastewater disposal facilities.

Governance reforms need to be implemented and the institutions in the social sector must be strengthened to improve the effectiveness of public and private social service delivery.

The good governance is essential for the development of human resources. It ensures the transparency, efficiency and rationality in the utilization of public funds and national resources, encourages growth of the private sector, promotes effective delivery of public services and helps establish the rule of law. Along with good governance, the people friendly policies, and sound macroeconomic management are also of immense importance in this context. There is an urgent need to focus on improvement and formation of human capital for the province to tap internal and external markets, and capitalize on market-driven economic growth.

Balochistan government should create conditions leading to the economic empowerment of women. They should be provided opportunities to play their role at all levels and in all types of development activities. They must have the opportunity and be provided with an environment to develop their talents. The women should get the possibility to enter all types and all levels of education and training. Education and training facilities should be provided to a large extent on the inputs women are already providing.

The fundamental problems of development that a region faces are the very same problems that contribute to its vulnerability to the catastrophic effects of natural hazards. The principal causes of vulnerability in the region include the persistence of widespread urban and rural poverty, the degradation of the region’s environment resulting from the mismanagement of natural resources, inefficient public policies, and lagging and misguided investments in infrastructure. Balochistan is the least developed province and hence more vulnerable. It has been observed that poor households and communities are more vulnerable to natural hazards, as they take a long period to recover from the deadly effects of disasters.

What has actually limited the scope for financing the social sector development in Balochistan- the challenging social sector indicators, constraints in social service provision, and low investments in the social sector.

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