Dis­torted pri­or­i­ties

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

The de­vel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties of the PML-N gov­ern­ment have long been ques­tioned by eco­nomic ex­perts. While some think that the im­por­tance at­tached to in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment is right be­cause it will help to stim­u­late the econ­omy, oth­ers have pointed out that key sec­tors like en­ergy and health and ed­u­ca­tion which form the back­bone of long-term de­vel­op­ment plan­ning have not re­ceived the at­ten­tion they de­serve. It goes with­out say­ing that in Pak­istan's ex­ist­ing cir­cum­stances if a choice has to be made, it should be in favour of revving up the en­ergy sec­tor and hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment. For, in both these areas we are woe­fully de­fi­cient. In all world ed­u­ca­tion and ed­u­ca­tion in­dices Pak­istan fig­ures at the bot­tom of the ta­ble.

The new wave of load­shed­ding that has hit the coun­try in the past week il­lus­trates the sit­u­a­tion. While in the cities the du­ra­tion of power out­ages has gone up to 12 hours, in the ru­ral hin­ter­land, the black­out is as long as 20-22 hours. This is surely an un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion, and all our ef­forts should be di­rected at find­ing a so­lu­tion - both short and long-term. But af­ter read­ing through the of­fi­cial doc­u­ments one gets the im­pres­sion that as per the PML-N gov­ern­ment's main em­pha­sis through­out has been on build­ing roads, bridges and other in­fra­struc­ture projects, many of them un­nec­es­sary.

Last year's Fed­eral Bud­get's Public Sec­tor De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme worth Rs525 bil­lion al­lo­cated only Rs115 bil­lion to WAPDA and PAEC whereas the Na­tional High­way Au­thor­ity alone got Rs112 bil­lion. More­over, these out­lays were meant to be spent on long ges­ta­tion projects, whereas to over­come crip­pling elec­tric­ity short­ages we need to take ur­gent ac­tion sup­ported by ad­e­quate bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions. Ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate, the elec­tric­ity cov­er­age in Pak­istan is only 68 per­cent but mo vis­i­ble and ef­fec­tive mea­sure have been adopted to ex­tend it. On the other hand, the re­duc­tion in sub­sidy from Rs 245 bil­lion to Rs 156 bil­lion meant fur­ther squeez­ing the sec­tor lead­ing to an in­crease in tar­iff. There is an ur­gent need to al­lo­cate more funds to un­der­take struc­tural re­forms in the power sec­tor with a view to cur­tail­ing the trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion losses. The [lain fact is that the power sec­tor needs much big­ger in­vest­ment than has been al­lo­cated to it in the last five years.

The same goes for the ed­u­ca­tion and health sec­tors. Pak­istan's al­lo­ca­tion in the health sec­tor is about 0.4 per­cent of GDP, far less than the two per­cent rec­om­mended by the UN. Ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate, only 27 per­cent of the coun­try's pop­u­la­tion has health in­sur­ance. The gov­ern­ment has ap­proved a Na­tional Health In­sur­ance scheme but no ef­forts have been made to put the scheme on the ground any time soon.

The 2009 Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy com­mit­ted the gov­ern­ment to the goal of spend­ing seven per­cent of GDP on the sec­tor by 2015. But the goal has been aban­doned and we are now spend­ing only about two per­cent of na­tional in­come on ed­u­ca­tion. With the sec­tor starved of es­sen­tial funds, we are far from achiev­ing free uni­ver­sal ed­u­ca­tion and a re­spectable in­crease in the lit­er­acy rate. What is more painful, what­ever funds are al­lo­cated are not fully uti­lized.

In these cir­cum­stances, it is no won­der we have failed to achieve the UN's Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals in the health and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors by the 2018 dead­line. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, now that health and ed­u­ca­tion have be­come pri­mar­ily pro­vin­cial sub­jects, the sit­u­a­tion will worsen fur­ther in the com­ing days. This is some­thing that should worry all of us.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.