EducationVolume 12 Issue # 22

Punjab cuts education budget yet again

Pakistan Muslim League-N government in the Punjab province has always been making tall claims about giving education top priority and enhancing the literacy rate in the province, but it is not reflected in the provincial government’s budgetary allocations. The allocations for the sector have been cut in the current financial year (2017-18) also, as in the previous one.

A brief analysis of the budget for education has been conducted by the education initiative, Alif Ailaan, which shows that allocation for education during the fiscal year 2017-18 is Rs. 345 billion (17.5% of the total budgetary allocations), which is one per cent less than the allocations made in the financial year 2016-17.

Last year (2016-17), the finance bill presented in the Punjab Assembly showed that in its ninth consecutive budget, the PML-N’s provincial government allocated Rs. 323 billion for education, which was 19% of the total budget of Rs. 1,681 billion. The budget documents stated that the education budget was 58% of the total annual development programme (ADP), allocated for the year. During the financial year 2015-16, it was 77% of the total ADP, hence 19% reduction in the allocation.And this year too, the budgetary allocations have been reduced by 1%, compared with the last financial year.

In higher education, the maximum allocation, Rs. 5 billion, has been recorded for the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund

(PEEF), while Rs. 500 million has been given each for Punjab Higher Education Commission

(PHEC) and Lahore Knowledge Park/ Information Technology University Punjab (ITUP).

However, the budget documents for year 2017-18 claimed that with an overall allocation of Rs. 345 billion, including the development and non-development budget, the provincial government increased the allocation by nine per cent. Of this, Rs. 82.6 billion has been earmarked under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) 2017-18, with the claim of an increase of 11% compared with the previous fiscal year on the development side.The development budget is further sub-divided into two parts, i.e. development revenue and development capital, which share the budget in the ratio of 18% and 82%, respectively. Under the development head, a maximum allocation of Rs. 53.3 billion has been set aside for the School Education Department, followed by Rs. 18 billion for higher education. Out of allocations for the SED, Rs. 17.7 billion would be spent on new schemes. The prominent new schemes include a “School Meal Programme”, provision of security cover in schools, up-gradation of primary and elementary schools, provision of missing facilities, provision of IT labs, teachers training programme, strengthening of District Education Authorities (DEAs) across Punjab and introduction of early childhood education (ECE) in 5,000 primary schools.

For Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education, the provincial government allocated Rs. 1.6 billion development budget. Out of it, the government would spend only Rs. 44 million on new schemes, while the remaining chunk would be spent on the ongoing schemes. The new schemes include the Project for Supporting Non-Formal Education, under which the department would collect recommendations from district-level stakeholders including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CBOs) and educationists, working in the Non-Formal Basic Education and Adult Literacy sectors.Over one billion rupees have been set aside for special education. Almost half of the development budget of Rs. 1.06 billion for the sector, Rs. 522 million would be spent on new schemes and the rest on the ongoing schemes.

Some of the new schemes include establishment of Government Degree Colleges of Special Education at Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. One of the new initiatives also includes public-private partnership. Another new initiative includes establishment of four Secondary Schools of Special Education for Hearing Impaired Girls at districts Bahawalpur, Gujrat, Sahiwal and Khanewal.The budget for sports and youth affairs in the current fiscal year stood at eight billion rupees.

Within the school education budget, the highest allocation – Rs. 16 billion – went to the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF).the Public School Support Programme (PSSP) received Rs. 7 billion, while Daanish Schools and Centre for Excellence Authority got Rs. 3 billion. Eight new Daanish schools will also be established, four each for girls and boys.

The district education budget has been enhanced to Rs. 230,000 million for 2017-18. This indicates an increase of more than 28% over 2016-17. The Punjab provincial government has also devised separate sets of rules and procedures for district budgeting. The local government’s law envisages formation of District Education Authorities (DEAs) to monitor education service delivery in the districts, with administrative and financial autonomy to develop and implement their own financial plans independently.

The government is establishing the DEAs with an amount of Rs. 230 billion, which is 66.6% of the education budget. However, the modus operandi for working of the DEAs is yet to be devised, and their composition, funds distribution, local government’s involvement in decision-making etc., are the questions that need to be answered yet.However, educationists believe that formation of DEAs would be useless without capacity building of the heads of the new bodies. Mostly, such bodies fail to deliver as either they are not released funds to carry on their plans or they themselves fail to acquire and utilise the funding due to their capacity issues.

However, the district component of the education budget is not part of the education department’s budget, but is included in each district’s share as determined under the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) Award.

It is very important that the federal government increases the education budget to 4% of gross domestic product (GDP) first; only then the federating units would be able to increase their allocations by 4%, as promised by the PML-N almost nine years ago.The 2017-18 budget of provincial component has been slashed by 31% and development (revenue) budget decreased by 3% over 2016-17. Budget estimates, apparently part of the provincial budget, has been allotted to the districts, as their budget has increased considerably. The provincial component has been decreased by 11%, whereas the total budget allocation has increased from Rs. 312,800 million to Rs. 345,000 million, showing an overall increase of 10.29%.

The provincial component of Rs. 119,136 million is split between current and development portions in the ratio of 37% and 63%, respectively.

The overall education budget during the last four years, from 2014-15 to 2017-18, has steadily been increased from Rs. 282,000 million to Rs. 345,000 million in 2017-18, with an allocation for pre- and primary education, decreasing by 8% and for secondary education by 23% over 2016-17. The overall share of the provincial education budget is 21%, which shows a decline of one per cent, compared with the previous year. (22% in 2016-17).

In higher education, the maximum allocation, Rs. 5 billion, has been recorded for the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF), while Rs. 500 million has been given each for Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) and Lahore Knowledge Park/ Information Technology University Punjab (ITUP).

Out of total Rs. 18 billion, the Higher Education Department would receive Rs 5.8 billion, which would be spent on new schemes including establishment of Leadership and Faculty Development Academy, community colleges in Punjab, strengthening of PHEC and establishment of new universities and sub-campuses of the universities.Separately, Rs. 1.7 billion has been allocated for Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Tevta) and Rs. 1.8 billion for Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC). These allocations, though related to education, are not reflected in the education budget, but in budgetary allocations for the Industries, Commerce and Investment Department.

Apparently, the Punjab provincial government has tried to balance developmental and education expenses, yet the promise of making education an important component of the PML-N government priorities doesn’t seem being fulfilled, at least for the current fiscal year.

Another important factor is enhancing the literacy rate in the province. But it is a matter of concern for all related with the education sector that during the past years, the literacy rate has gone done instead of showing any upward trends, according to Alif Ailaan annual surveys.

According to official data, the literacy rate in the country saw an annual drop of 2.0 per cent to 58 per cent during fiscal year 2015-16 — a level last seen in FY2013-14 when the current PML-N government came into power. The decline in the literacy rate has been witnessed in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab, while it remained stagnant in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

There’s no use of billions of rupee allocations for the sector in the annual budgetary papers if we see the net result in the form of reduction in literacy rates, with each passing year. The PML-N government had previously resolved to increase school enrolment to 100%; however, no timeframe had ever been given by it in black and white.