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Appropriate attention towards social sector is the best way to achieve the objective

Dec 10 - 16, 2001

Perhaps for the first time in the history of Pakistan public sector development programme (PSDP) has been raised to Rs. 140 billion for the current financial year. In the budget Rs.127 billion has been earmarked which has now been raised to Rs.140 by adding Rs.13 billion from the 600 million dollar (about Rs. 40 billion) cash assistance from the United States.

The presentation given to President in detail says that Khushaal Pakistan programme received Rs.8 billion (from Rs.7 billion to Rs.15 billion), education sector Rs.2 billion (from Rs.2.5 billion to Rs.4.5 billion). This would go for rehabilitation of the primary schools.

No allocation was made to women Development Ministry which now has been given Rs. one billion for the school feeding for girls in primary schools. Health sector was given Rs.2.5 billion and now its share has been raised to Rs.4.5 billion, adding Rs. 2 billion for primary health and family planning and immunisation.

Proposed new additional allocation of Rs.8 billion would create 800,000 new jobs and increase local government additional capital expenditure by 60 per cent, 100 per cent or more than doubling of local government budget for capital expenditure.

In the acceleration of education sector restructuring programme the rehabilitation of the existing primary/elementary schools is now of 1,780 schools (1,500 additional) which was only for 280 schools in Annual Development Plan. Teachers training resource centres were 100 in ADP and now they are 700 (600 new).

By the nutrition package the outcome would be 18 per cent greater weight gain 10 per cent height gain, 100 per cent increase in existing enrollment, decrease in dropout rate by 30 per cent, reduction of gender gap in school enrollment, school nutrition package would cover 5,000 primary girls schools to access 500,000 girls. In each district the target would be 250 girls school by providing one meal for 25 days per month for 10 months/year (Rs6.65 per meal).

Ministry for Women Development, Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal and Aga Khan University would implement this school nutrition programme in collaboration with four provincial governments, district Nazims and 5,000 community organisers to be trained by AKU.

There are also outcomes set against each allocation. Existing plus new schemes for safe water supply would have to reduce incidence of waterborne diseases. Existing plus new water conservation schemes including new check dams, small channels (including realignment) and local water shortage would bring more water for irrigation and water conservation resulting in higher yields per unit of water.

The focus on sites and services for low-cost housing schemes slum upgradation-rehabilitation is to target poverty alleviation. The size of the schemes have been increased from Rs.10 million for the rural areas and Rs. 20 million for urban areas.

The Government has revised allocation for social sector projects, including human development poverty reduction and job creation, by about Rs.15 billion to step up socio-economic development in the country.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz told newsmen that Pakistan has received total grants in aid commitments of 1.2 billion dollars, out of which six hundred million dollars have been received in cash. The funds will be utilised for improvement of infrastructure, housing, sanitation, water supply, schools, health facilities and community driven programme.

The financial constraints have seriously affected health, education, environment, housing, sanitation, infrastructure etc., over the decades, jeopardizing the nation's overall image. The lack of employment opportunities had undermined the country's peace and stability, as the educated youth had started falling prey to the extremist elements for subversive and violent activities. Due attention was not given to the basic sectors of national activity which had put the country's future at stake.

It's, however, good that the present government has allocated additional funds to the social sector programme. The fact that the funds have been diverted towards social sector without any loss of time is indicative of the present government's right priorities and commitment to address issues of poverty, unemployment, want and hunger. It is ironic that the nation could not benefit from the foreign debt worth over 25 billion dollars in the twelve years of PML and PPP rule in the country. And the tragedy is that there is nothing tangible on the ground proportionate to the foreign debt that BB and Nawaz Sharif secured from various international monetary institutions and the friendly countries. It is hoped that more and more funds will be allocated to the social sector, since it was comprehensively ignored in the past. Pakistan has to cover the long way to catch up with the contemporary nations. Appropriate attention towards social sector is the best way to achieve the objective. The nation cannot afford lethargy on this count and has to work hard to bring its infrastructure in health, education, job opportunities, at par with other countries to achieve quick progress and prosperity.