WHICH WAY WILL THE MONEY GO?

With all five provincial and federal budgets now passed by the respective assemblies, it has become evident where the overall cuts and raises in the education sector have come. But what hasn’t been discussed is where the priorities of each government lie and which segment is to receive the lion’s share of the development budget in the coming year. Ammar Sheikh digs deep to analyze just that.

contrary to what was promised in election rallying, the education sector has really not become the focus of the incumbent government, and major cuts in the budget for Higher Education Commission of Pakistan foretell a testing time for the country’s higher education sector in the current fiscal year. Besides the slash at the Centre, provinces too have shown little interest in funding the higher education sector, which in fact could be a direct effect of the budget contraction at the federal level. HEC happens to be one of the major financial forces behind public and private universities, especially when it comes to funding research, faculty development and scholarships for students who seek education abroad. The government’s move to cut HEC funding could trigger, and probably has triggered, a ripple effect that may be felt in higher education institutions across the country. In this special report, we try to understand what the Centre and the provinces are focused on in their spending for the coming year and which segments of the education sector can hope to see some upward changes.

Federal:

An overall decrease was observed in two sections of the federal education budget for fiscal year 2019-20, setting off alarm bells for all those concerned with public spending on education. The preference this year has been given to tertiary education, as federal government only caters to a small population at the school-level and is otherwise the nerve center for higher education for the entire country. The major shock, however, came in the budgetary allocation for HEC, as the provinces now finance other education sectors in their respective jurisdiction after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

HEC has been allocated Rs 59 billion for FY2019-20, of which Rs 28.646 billion has been earmarked for development. To put it into perspective, HEC had demanded Rs 103.5 billion from the federal government.

HEC has been allocated Rs 59 billion for the next fiscal year, of which Rs 28.646 billion has been earmarked for development. To put it into perspective, HEC had demanded Rs 103.5 billion for the coming year. The highest allocation from among the remaining education budget for the sector was earmarked for Tertiary Education Affairs and Services, which received Rs 65.233 billion of the Rs 77.262 billion for Education Affairs and Services. Moreover, Rs 2.8 billion has been earmarked for Pre-primary and Primary Education Affairs and Rs 6.718 billion for Secondary Education Affairs and Services. From the looks of it, the federal government seems to have shifted its focus to technical and college education over other affairs in the federal budget for the current fiscal year. Only time will tell if these segments see improvements other than those on paper.

 

Punjab:

Punjab, too, has seen a decrease in the overall volume of the budget for education this year, with School Education receiving the bulk of the allocation, primarily owing to the sheer size of its network. However, the sector the provincial government seems to be specifically focused on in FY19-20 is building infrastructure. A large percentage of the development budget has been earmarked for District Education Complexes for education authorities, buildings and providing missing facilities in colleges. The province has set aside Rs 382.9 billion for education, a total allocation of 16.64 percent of the total budget for Punjab. School education segment has received around 88 percent of the total budget, while higher education has received around 11 percent this year. Other key programs and segments such as the Punjab Education Endowment Funds (PEEF) and the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) saw massive cuts this year. PEEF was allocated Rs 300 million and the PHEC Rs 100 million this year for development.

A large percentage of Punjab’s development budget has been earmarked for District Education Complexes for education authorities, buildings and providing missing facilities in colleges.

 

Sindh:

Like Punjab, the Sindh government will also be directing most its finances towards the school education segment, with a focus on strengthening and increasing enrolment and improving infrastructure. On the other hand, little has been left for higher education, with only three major projects for universities planned in the fiscal year 2019-20. The Sindh government has allocated a total of Rs 215.862 billion for education in its budget for the fiscal year 2019-20, which is 17.73 percent of the total provincial budget. The government has earmarked Rs 19.15 billion for the development side for both schooling and higher education for the province, which is 8.87 percent of the total educational allocation.

The Sindh government has prioritized schools, including construction of classrooms and model school complexes, as well as provision of missing facilities. On the higher education side, 17 new degree colleges will be established and missing facilities will also be provided in colleges. At the university level, the provincial government has three major projects: A Center of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Block chain for IBA Sukkur, establishment of Thar Institute of Technology, NED Campus of Tharparkar and Sindh University campuses in Badin and Mirpurkhas.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The KP education budget for FY 2019-20 is far different than in previous years, as former Tribal Areas have officially become part of the province. For the very reason, the total volume of the budget has increased and the KP budget is now split into two parts: one for settled areas and another for merged districts. In total, the KP government has allocated Rs 173.17 billion for education, which is 19.24 percent of its total budget. It might seem, at first glance, that the KP government has given a big chunk of its finances to education, but the allocation might still fall short of expectations given the herculean task of building infrastructure in the newly merged district.

The KP government has offered sizable finances to education, but the allocation might still fall short of expectations given the herculean task of building infrastructure in the newly merged district.

Of the total education budget, Rs 19.66 billion, or 11.35 percent, have been allocated for development. The settled districts will receive Rs 129.4 billion for elementary and secondary education, while Rs 19.65 billion will go to higher education. For the merged districts, Rs 21.47 billion has been allocated for elementary and secondary education and Rs 2.65 billion for higher education. The major focus of the KP government efforts this year will be on trying to fill the requirements of schoolteachers and administration, which is expected to be the highlight of the province’s spending.

 

Balochistan:

The Balochistan government has allocated a total of Rs 70.67 billion for education, which is 16.86 percent of the total provincial budget. The provincial government’s budget is split between schools and higher education, with schools getting the major chunk of the funding. In total, schools have been allocated a total of Rs 55.72 billion for the year, while higher education will receive Rs 14.95 billion. The major focus of the Balochistan government this year is to address the shortage of facilities at the school level by building new schools, recruiting additional schoolteachers and providing basic facilities, such as drinking water. Major initiatives for higher education include a massive increase in grant for universities, up from Rs 550 million in the previous year to Rs 1.5 billion this fiscal year. The provincial government also announced to set up a finance commission for universities. Another major plan unveiled is the establishment of four university sub-campuses across the province.

However, the major chunk of the provincial education budget will still go to non-development expenditure, including Rs 48.011 billion for schools and Rs 13.907 billion for higher education. Of the total budget for education, schools will get only 13.83 percent for development projects and higher education only 6.97 percent for various development projects to be initiated in FY2019-20.