How Much Exactly Do we Spend on Education?


How Much Exactly Do We Spend On Education?

Pervez Tahir

September witnesses the observance of more commemorative days than any other month. One, rather neglected such day, is the International Literacy Day. However, nobody remembered that education policy prepared by the present government wants to touch the moon by achieving a target of seven per cent of GDP by 2015. On present showing, seven per cent may be our tax-to-GDP ratio by 2015.

As for education, the latest Economic Survey said that it was two per cent of GDP in 2009-10, the last year with full-year information. An analysis of the information provided in the latest budget documents of the federal and provincial governments shows a downward trend.

The budget target for 2010-11 was 1.02 per cent of GDP, but the revised estimates show that only 0.9 per cent of GDP was utilised. The 2011-12 budget target for expenditure on education also amounts to 0.9 per cent of GDP. Though there was an increase in absolute terms. While the budget estimate for 2010-11 was Rs170.52 billion, the corresponding figure for 2011-12 comes to Rs190.28 billion, a budget-to-budget increase of 11.6 per cent. These are budgets and even here the increase is less than inflation, implying a decline in real terms.

One would expect that the revised estimate, which is the first estimate after the budget, is somewhat closer to reality. For 2010-11, the revised estimate of expenditure on education, culled out of the budget documents of the federal government and the provinces is Rs161.2 billion. The highest contribution of Rs55.18 billion was made by the federal government, which was followed by Punjab’s contribution of Rs41.36 billion. In the same year, the revised estimate for Sindh was Rs26.39 billion and Rs18.58 billion for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Balochistan utilised Rs19.69 billion, which was more than Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

These revised estimates for 2010-11, based on information given in the federal and provincial budget documents for 2011-12, has been rendered suspect by another set of information provided by the ministry of finance after the budget announcement. The secretariat set up within that ministry — to monitor budgetary expenditures related to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) — has come out with a fantastic set of information on the expenditure on education. According to this information, the expenditure on education in the first nine months (July-March) of 2010-11 was greater than the full year revised estimate given in the budget documents! Thus, the Punjab government spent Rs99.33 billion rather than Rs41.36 billion and Sindh spent Rs51.2 billion rather than Rs26.39 billion. The respective figures for nine months are Rs40.13 billion, Rs17.1 billion and Rs12.0 billion. Again, the respective figures for 12 months for the aforementioned governments were Rs55.18 billion, Rs18.58 billion and Rs19.69 billion. The net result is that the expenditure on education in nine months of 2010-11 was Rs219.76 and in 12 months, it came down to Rs161.2 billion!

Somebody ought to explain what is happening here, before it turns into a fiasco a la FBR. If this is a one-time error a quick correction will be in order.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th,  2011.


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