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 Politics & Policy  Improved policies in social sector

Politics & Policy

Improved policies in social sector

The donors were likely to financially support the human development programme

Feb-04 - Feb-10, 2002

The 3-day assembly of the Pakistan Human Development Forum (PHDF) concluded in Islamabad last week on a highly optimistic note. The representatives of international donors participating in the assembly gave encouraging response to government's improved policies in health, education and social sector and its thrust on poverty alleviation and pledged generous financial support.

The Finance Minister at the close of conference told newsmen the donors were likely to financially support the programme to the extent Rs. 105 billion ($1.5 billion) expected shortfall between the national resources of estimated cost of about 348 billion during three-year plan period (2001/2004). It has also been decided that civil society, private sector and non-government organisation (NGOs) will be associated with various social sector development projects.

The meeting of PHDF was most timely as it was held at a time when the country stands at the bottom of the ladder of human development indicators. The discussions and debate was most exhaustive as experts of donor agencies, government policy makers, representatives of NGOs and social workers participated in the deliberations. A report of multi donor support unit which had been monitoring the implementation of social action proramme in Pakistan held a high rate of illiteracy, low expenditure on education, health and infrastructure as some of the basic issues Pakistan was confronted with.

Secretary Economic Affair, Nawaid Ahsan, while briefing the newsmen, said the donors have assured their full support if the government encourages the alternative approaches towards the delivery of services in health and education sectors through public-private partnership.

He said the Sindh government was working on a programme through which 190 schools, declared as non-efficient, will be adopted by NGOs so that the institutions could be converted into efficient ones. He however, clarified that such adoption would not increase the cost of education but would improve the education standard as well as the working of teachers.

NWFP Minister for Education Imtiaz Gillani presented the NWFP government's vision for improving education delivery mechanisms in the province. Sindh Minister of Education Ms. Anita Ghulam Ali informed the Forum about the success of the Sindh Education Foundation in unlocking the potential of public-private partnership.

Shahid Kardar, former Punjab Minister for education, informed the Forum of the important role the private sector could play in the provision of education. He highlighted the need for the government to come forth and encourage the private sector by creating an enabling environment through greater tax incentives, fewer administrative controls and greater support through credits and grants.

Lieutenant General (R) Sabeeh Qamar-uz-Zaman, the director of Citizen's Foundation, Karachi, elaborated the critical role that voluntary services could play in encouraging the educational development of the poor.

Federal Minister for Health Dr. Abdul Malik Kasi presented the health sector policy and highlighted the sectoral initiatives representing a major shift in focus of the public health policy from curative to preventive healthcare.

In her presentation, titled 'Financing ESR (Education Sector Reform) Action Plan 2001-2004, Federal Education Minister Ms. Zubaida said that inadequate resources for education spending was a major reason for the existing social gap in Pakistan. She said that to meet the 'Education for All' targets in the given time frame, there is a financial requirement of Rs. 55.5 billion. She said the ESR plan targets 100 per cent gross primary enrolment, 76 per cent gross primary enrolment, and 55 per cent middle school enrolment. For a smooth and uninterrupted implementation, she said, the ESR Action Plan requires a financing of Rs. 55.5 billion. While an amount of Rs. 30 billion has been allocated, there is a gap of Rs. 25 billion which is almost 45 per cent of the proposed spending, she added.

Ms. Zubaida said the elementary education is one of the seven thrust areas in the education sector reforms. Under this, the primary education has been made compulsory through an ordinance in Sindh, Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and NWFP, and the phased implementation of the ordinance would begin from April this year, she added.

"Elementary education will address absenteeism in all provinces and many districts. For this, innovative approaches will be adopted. The comparison is sharp between children of Pakistan and Sri Lanka in some ways. While three per cent of children in Sri Lanka drop out of school before grade 5, in Pakistan the ratio for the same is 50 per cent," she said.

The Minister said a large-scale teacher training proramme has been undertaken by provinces and ICT in 2001 and 2002, also making teacher guides available by April.

The government intends to spend Rs. 348.133 billion on different projects of community and social services during 2001-2004. The projects of community services include roads, highways, bridges, water supplies and sanitation, while the projects of social services include education, health and population planning, social security and other welfare projects, and natural calamities and other disasters, the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) states.