Ammar Sheikh 

 

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) made education and education reforms the cornerstones for its election manifesto and campaigns, terming its plans for reforming the sector “the most ambitious education agenda in Pakistan’s history”. Yet, the first full budget presented by the new provincial government has left much to be desired in terms of funds funneled towards education, falling even short of allocations made by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in some areas.

While most are content reporting an apparent increase in the volume of education budget for 2019-20, The Academia has delved deeper and discovered facts conveniently ignored.

A comparison in terms of rupee allocation never does justice to the analytical exercise, as annual budgets are bound to grow in volume owing to several factors such as inflation, value of currency and increase in pays of government employees. However, a real comparison is one based on percentage allocations for various expenditure, offering a truer analysis of the budgetary exertion.

Overall Allocations

In its annual budget for fiscal year 2019-20, the Punjab government has allocated a total of Rs 382.9 billion for education. The allocation is 16.64 percent of the total budget for the province.

Put side by side with PTI’s own mini budget passed in October for eight months ending June 2019, there is a visible decrease for educational expenditure. In October, the PTI allocated Rs 373 billion for education in Punjab out of the total budget of Rs 2,026.51 billion, making it 18.4% of the total budget. Consequently, the budget for 2019 has seen education receive 1.76 percent less than what it did last year and the comparisons don’t end just yet.

When considered against the 2017-18 budgetary allocations approved by the PML-N’s provincial government, education again seems to be at loss. The PML-N government allocated Rs 345 billion or 17.51 percent of the total budget of the province to education in fiscal year 2017-18. This means the allocation for allocation was 0.87 percent more two years ago than what it is this fiscal year.

Like always, school education received the bulk of the education’s budgetary allocation, making away with Rs 336.5 billion, or 87.88 percent, of the total education budget. In the October ‘mini’ budget presented by PTI, school education received Rs 332.50 billion, or 89.14 percent, of the total budget. Therefore, schools will receive 1.26 percent less than their share in previous budget. However, the schools did get a bigger share from the allocation made by the PML-N government in 201-18. The previous government allocated Rs 298 billion, 86.37 percent of total, for schools in FY 2017-18. In this respect, PTI’s current allocation is 1.51 percent more than what schools got in the last full budget.

Higher Education

The higher education segment of the province has been allocated Rs 42.4 billion from the total share, which amounts to 11.07 percent of the total budget. In the last eight-month budget, higher education received Rs 37.15 or 9.95 percent of total, portraying an increase of 1.12 percent.

However, the PML-N government had allocated Rs 44.61 billion, or 12.93 percent in the 2017-18 budget. Here too, the PTI governmnet has allocated a smaller share (1.86% less) to Punjab’s higher education than its comparative PML-N government.

No To Development?

As a whole, the education sector is set to receive Rs 46.9 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20 under the development head, an amount which is 12.24 percent of the entire budget for the education sector. In its last budget, the PTI government allocated Rs 32.8 billion or 8.79 percent for development. This shows a budget increase of 3.45 percent for development activities for 2019-20 over PTI’s last 8-month budget.

But PTI’s development plans in education seem far less ambitious than PML-N’s, if we are to strictly consider budgetary allocations. In its budget for 2017-18, the PML-N government reserved 21.47 percent of the total education budget for development activities. This means there has been a massive cut of 9.23 percent in the budget reserved for development activities like new schools and new educational schemes etc.

Similarly, school education has been allocated a sum of Rs 32 billion in the development head this year, which is 9.5 percent of its total allocation. In the previous year, school education was allotted Rs 25 billion or 7.51 percent of its total allocation for development. Schools has been allocated an additional 1.99 percent to the development head from the previous year.

The PML-N on the other hand allocated 17.9 percent of the total budget for development in the schools segment. Resultantly, the allocation has been decreased by 8.4 percent here as well.

The development budget for higher education is Rs 7.3 billion, which is 17.21 percent of the total for higher education. This is an increase of 3.76 percent from previous PTI budget, where an allocation of Rs 5 billion or 13.45 percent was made for the development head in higher education.

But looking at the PML-N’s last budget of 2017-18, it can be seen that development is being rolled back. The PML-N governmnet allocated a massive 40.41 percent for development in the higher education sector, 23.2 percent more than the allocation made by PTI for 2019-20.

Cuts

There were several other departments within the ambit of education sector that saw cuts in their development budgets. Chief among them is the Punjab Education Endowment Funds (PEEF), which has been allocated a sum of Rs 300 million, down from Rs 1 billion in the previous year. The Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) has also been allocated Rs 100 million this year for development, own from Rs 500 million in the previous year.

Other allocations for development include Rs 1 billion for Special Education, Rs 2.6 billion for Literacy and Non-formal Basic Education and Rs 4 billion for Sports & Youth Affairs.

PML-N’s flagship programmes got a sigh of relief this year with a slight increase in their development budget allocations. The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has been allocated Rs 19.5 billion, an increase from the previous year’s 12.4 billion. For comparison, the PML-N had allocated Rs 16 billion two years ago for PEF.

Daanish School and Centres of Excellence Authority has been allocated Rs 1.5 billion, up from Rs 1 billion in the previous year. The PML-N government had earmarked Rs 3 billion for the project in its last budget for fiscal year 2017-18.

So there you have it. While it may offer PTI some ego boost to claim that education has received a bigger share from their planners, in real terms, the government has fallen well short of its trumpeting of putting education at the heart of all its endeavors.

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