ISLAMABAD: Although the government has been claiming that it has given importance to education sector and that the education budget has been increased, it is just a game of figures.
In real terms, the federal education budget, announced on June 3 has been decreased by over Rs1 billion. And if inflation is accounted for, it is surprising to note that the education budget has been decreased by 11 per cent.
Due to this, it seems that the allocation of four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for education will remain a distant dream, Dawn has learnt.
It is pertinent to mention that an estimate of Rs80 billion was announced for education in the fiscal budget of 2013-14. And during a revised estimate, a budget of Rs87.8 billion was allocated.
However, on Tuesday, a federal education budget of Rs86.4 billion was announced, which is 1.6 per cent less than the revised estimate of last year.
According to Economic Survey 2013-14, the inflation was 8.7 per cent. So, if inflation rate is deducted from the education budget, an overall decrease of 11 per cent will be observed and the budget becomes equal to Rs78.9 billion in real terms.
Renowned education researcher Ahmad Ali also agrees that the education budget, in real terms, has been reduced by 11 per cent.
While talking to Dawn, Mr Ahmad said if the federal education budget was examined, it would be interesting to know that 73 per cent of the budget has been allocated for Higher Education Commission (HEC). “9.38 per cent of the education budget has been estimated for the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), 5.1 per cent budget has been estimated for the Ministry of Education and Training, while 4.62 per cent budget has been allocated for educational institutions working in cantonment areas,” he said.
For the financial year 2013-14, Rs7.25 billion were allocated for CADD, whereas in 2014-15, Rs8.1 billion have been estimated. There is an 11.7 per cent increase on paper.
Mr Ahmad said that last year Rs22 million were allocated for the development budget but this year Rs749 million have been estimated for the development budget of CADD.
“This is an unprecedented increase and I doubt whether CADD will be able to utilise such a huge amount, because the increase in development funds is 3,248 per cent.
“It will be important to ensure timely release and effective utilisation of the allocated funds,” he said.
“Moreover, the current/recurring budget has been increased by only 2.2 per cent. This budget is divided into two portions, one is for salary and other is non-salary.
“Repair work of buildings, monitoring of quality of education, payment of utility bills and fuel of buses, along with other expenses are done from non-salary budget, so it should be increased,” he added.
Last year, Rs57.59 billion were allocated for the HEC. However, in the upcoming financial year Rs63 billion have been estimated.
“An amount of Rs43 billion has been fixed for current expenditure and Rs20.06 billion for development expenditures. Considering the growth needs of HEC, the allocation for development expenditure seems insufficient,” Mr Ahmad said.
Smaller provinces and southern Punjab ignored
An official of the Ministry of Education and Training said that smaller provinces have been neglected in the 2014-15 federal budget for higher education sector.
“As many as 54 new projects, worth Rs3.27 billion, have been proposed in the budget. However, only four of them have been approved by Central Development Working Party (CDWP),” said Ahmad Ali.
“There are 12 projects for Punjab in the budget, but only one of them is for southern Punjab,” he said.
According to the budget, 30 per cent of the total funds released for 154 development projects could not be utilised in the fiscal year 2013-14. Rs14.787 billion were released and Rs10.351 billion were actually used.
“Interestingly, National Fertiliser Corporation Institute of Engineering and Technology (NFCIET) Multan, established in 1985, and National Textile University Faisalabad, established in 2002, have been included among the newly established universities,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014