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How Mr.“U-turn” Khan totally neglected Pakistan’s socio-economic development

The education budget allocation remains well below the prescribed 4% of GDP and poor education planning results in supply and demand mismatches. Nearly 22.5 million children are out of school in Pakistan.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Updated: Jun 26, 2019, 12.34 PM IST
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For public order and safety Rs. 152 billion have been allocated – a 15.4% increase and almost Rs. 1.48 trillion will be spent on the defense of the country, which is 6% higher than the outgoing fiscal year.
By Ali Salman Andani

The government of Mr. Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi presented the National Budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 on June 11; a budget which reflects utter incompetence, lies, shamelessness and ignorance of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government; a budget that is absolutely against Imran Khan’s election manifesto, as Mr. “U-turn” Khan promised to allocate record sums of money on socio-economic development of the country, but the reality –unfortunately –is quite far from his blatant lies! Just when I am writing this piece, he has taken another sharp u-turn; the project of converting PM House into a research university –named Islamabad National University –which Khan inaugurated in December last year has been suspended and not a single penny is allocated in the national budget for this project. By the way, he has already spent Rs. 30 million from the national exchequer on a ceremony related to this university project -austerity, isn’t it?

Imran Khan’s 2018 election manifesto describes so eloquently the problems faced by Pakistan’s highly vulnerable education system. According to it, “Pakistan’s National Curriculum has not been reviewed or updated in the past 12 years… The education budget allocation remains well below the prescribed 4% of GDP and poor education planning results in supply and demand mismatches. Nearly 22.5 million children are out of school in Pakistan… At the higher education level, research volume and quality is limited.” Despite having full awareness of the condition of education system, the Khan-administration allocated a miniscule sum of Rs. 77 billion on Education Affairs and Services –a straight 20% cut as compare to FY 2018-2019.

Well, irony must have buried herself after knowing that the country where 78% of the employers lack trust in fresh graduates will provide only Rs. 29 billion to its Higher Education Commission –a body which is responsible for primary funding, overseeing, regulating and accrediting the higher education institutions in Pakistan. Mr. Imran Khan, do you know that your alma mater –Oxford University –spent Rs. 436 billion in year 2017/18 which is 15 times more than what you have allocated for HEC which regulates the higher education of an entire country of 212 million people! Oh, I forgot; why would you care about the poor and middleclass Pakistani students, after all your children are not even Pakistani citizens; this underinvested education system won’t affect their lives!

After 18th constitutional amendment most of the education system comes under the authority of provincial government; Imran Khan’s PTI government in Punjab has allocated Rs. 46.9 billion on education development – 43% less than what Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N government allocated in FY 2017-18. But Nawaz Sharif was a corrupt Prime Minister in Mr. U-turn’s view. What a shame you are Mr. Prime Minister!

Healthcare is also not a priority of Imran Khan government , as it has cut the budget for healthcare affairs and services by 21% to Rs. 11 billion. His provincial government in Punjab also cut the healthcare budget by 1.8% to Rs. 278 billion. Environmental Protection is also not something which concerns Mr. Khan; mere Rs. 470 million has been allocated for it which is 63% less than the outgoing fiscal year. Given the resources it will have available for FY20, after spending Rs. 4.1 trillion allocated for debt servicing & repayments, Pakistan will end up with Rs. 3.79 trillion for all other expenditures.

For public order and safety Rs. 152 billion have been allocated – a 15.4% increase and almost Rs. 1.48 trillion will be spent on the defense of the country, which is 6% higher than the outgoing fiscal year. Yesterday (June 21, 2019) it was announced that China will provide “$1 billion” for socio-economic development to Pakistan –how funny it is, when you yourself are not spending enough on socio-economic development but still accepting Chinese aid for it! Shame!

As usual the government will run a huge fiscal deficit in the upcoming fiscal year, which would be equal to Rs. 3.1 trillion – 7.1% of the GDP. Already Mr. U-turn has added Rs. 3.5 trillion to the public debt in his first 10 months of ongoing fiscal year and if his government will continue walking on the same track, the public debt would be increased by Rs. 20 trillion after Khan’s five-year term. Socio-economic development is important for the long run sustainable economic growth, but why would a Prime Minister who just recently spent $2.9 million of taxpayers’ money for the maintenance of his and President Alvi’s VVIP aircrafts – the same Mr. Alvi for whom CTD Islamabad issued Rs. 32.75 million worth of tenders for the decoration of President’s House! Unfortunately, common man will pay more in sales tax and income tax, plus zero-rated export sector has been included in tax net which will increase headline inflation and negatively affect exports, respectively.

( The author is an Economic & Political Analyst - Columnist at Asia Times, Modern Diplomacy and others. Tweets @an_alisalman)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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