ISLAMABAD - The development budget is not utilised fully in the country and spending patterns in the education sector have no difference, as in 2012-13 the country could only utilise half of the allocated development budget.
Alif Ailaan, a non-governmental education campaign, in an effort to dissect the provincial and national education budgets conducted an analysis to see where we are under-spent or over-spent and where provinces can improve. The study says that actual development spending in the education sector has fallen woefully short of budgeted amounts.
In 2012-13, actual development expenditure on education by all four provinces combined remained Rs 31.3 billion that was less than 50 per cent of what was allocated i.e. Rs 70.3 billion.
In 2012-13, Punjab had the highest rate of under-utilisation of the development budget, spending only 21.4 per cent of what was allocated. In terms of the ratio of current-to-development spending, Sindh has the most skewed ratio with 90 per cent current expenditure and 10 per cent development expenditure.
Since 2010-11, the first year of the flow of greater resources to provinces under the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, provincial spending on education has increased 37 per cent. Adjusted for inflation over this period, however, real spending on education by the provinces has risen only 4.3 per cent.
The combined budgetary allocation (federal and provincial) and the expenditure at the district level for all tiers of education (primary to higher) is an estimated Rs 504 billion for 2013-14. This amount is nearly 17 per cent higher than last year's actual spending and represents 8 per cent of the entire budgeted expenditure for 2013-14.
In terms of GDP, the combined budget allocation amounts to 1.9 per cent of GDP and this figure has remained stagnant over the last 2-3 years (it stood at 1.8 per cent last year).
At this level, only 7 developing countries in the world spend less on education than Pakistan (according to the UNDP Human Development Report 2013). Pakistan ranks 177th globally in terms of public spending on education.
Of the total combined budgeted allocation for education, 82 per cent is earmarked for current expenditure (mainly salaries) and 18 per cent for development expenditure (construction of new facilities, upgrading existing facilities, etc).
The combined 2013-14 budgetary allocation by all provincial governments for all tiers of education amounts to approximately Rs 424 billion. This figure is nearly 18 per cent higher than last year's actual spending.
Among the provinces, Punjab's allocation for education is the highest (approximately Rs 182 billion), followed by Sindh (Rs 134 billion), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recorded the highest increase 30 per cent in allocations in the current year compared to actual spending in the previous year.
Approximately 83 per cent of the overall allocation is for current expenditure (mainly staff salaries), while 17 per cent is for development.
KPK's headline announcement of the size of the education budget was Rs 72.7 billion. Of this amount, 44.7 billion pertain to the education budgets of district/local governments. The 2013-14 allocation for education is 30 per cent higher than actual spending in 2012-13.
Punjab has allocated 15 per cent of its total budget outlay for education, however, this total allocation includes: health and agriculture education (Rs 1.8 billion), arts colleges (Rs 15.6 billion), archives and museums (Rs 0.27 billion) and administration costs (Rs 11.1 billion).
Sindh's allocation for education this year is Rs 134 billion. Despite the size of the allocation, district-wise education outcomes in Sindh are amongst the lowest in Pakistan. This potentially raises serious concerns regarding the effectiveness of spending.
Balochistan's allocation for education in 2013-14 is Rs 35 billion. This represents 21 per cent of the total budget and amounts to 43 per cent increase over actual spending in 2012-13.
The study emphasises that while allocations for education were increased both at the federal level and in each of the provinces, much remains to be done and the conversation needs to go deeper than simply increasing allocations.
The federal and provincial governments need to pay attention not only to finding more money for education but to improving how the money is spent. An overwhelming share of public expenditure on education is devoted to teachers' salaries and other recurring expenses, with little left over for investing in new capacity.