Islamabad - If Pakistan wants to achieve the noble and ambitious goal of spending at least four percent of its gross development product (GDP) on education by 2018 cumulatively, it will need to find an additional Rs 485 billion — a large sum of money equating to nearly $5 billion — allocation for education.

But currently there is no debate, nationally or at the provincial level, on how the revenue can or would be raised to enable the respective tiers of government to spend the minimum amount necessary for Pakistan to achieve its stated objectives, says a study on current budget allocations and future needs conducted by Alif Ailan, an NGO.

The four percent of GDP commitment has been made by multiple governments, by almost all political parties, and has been explicitly stated as Pakistani policy in multiple official documents. The report — Government Allocations for Education in Pakistan, The Road to Getting to 4% of GDP — states that the current assemblies will need to increase the education budgets cumulatively, more than three times the increase they achieved in the first three budgets to equal 4 percent of GDP in 2018.

If it is to equal 4 percent of GDP in 2018, the expected expenditure on education in the 2017-2018 budget will need to be Rs 1,219 billion. This means, that from the current position, to reach an expenditure on education that is equal to four percent of GDP, Pakistan will require a cumulative increase in spending of at least Rs 485 billion, the study says. While in the three budgets that the provincial and federal governments have passed in the current term of the assemblies, the total quantum of increase in spending has been Rs 154 billion only.

In the remaining two budgets of these assemblies, they will need to increase the education budgets cumulatively, more than three times the increase they achieved in the first three budgets. And to achieve these targets, the federal government will need to increase its allocations for education from Rs 97.9 billion in FY 2015-16 to Rs 243.8 billion in FY 2017-18. To achieve the target of four percent of GDP a reality, the provincial governments will need to almost double their share to at least Rs 975 billion by the budget for 2017-2018 from the current allocations in the provincial budgets of Rs 538 billion.

The analysis says, in the 2015-2016 budget the combined federal and provincial allocations for education are almost Rs 734 billion that constitutes 2.68 percent of the GDP. The total government allocations for education in the federal and provincial budgets since 2013-14 have been calculated as Rs 579.815 billion in 2013-14, Rs 656.394 billion in 2014-15 and Rs 733.841 billion in 2015-16.

The evidence for the government’s commitment is clear, as there is an unmistakable, albeit limited and insufficient increase in both absolute terms, and in terms of the percentage of total national budget (federal and provincial, including districts etc), says the study.

The past three years, from this government’s first budget to the current budget, have seen a total increase in allocations of over Rs 154 billion. This has generated a small and relatively insignificant increase in terms of education allocations as a percentage of GDP, partly because the GDP has been growing these two years. The government has overseen an increase in allocations to education as a percentage of GDP from 2.59% to 2.62% to 2.68%.

Strangely, only 11.3 percent (or Rs 17.48 billion of the Rs 154 billion) have come from the federal government and almost 90 percent of the increase has come from the provinces.

The provinces themselves have had a varied pace of increase in allocations, with Balochistan far ahead and Sindh lagging behind.

When compared to its neighbours and a selection of other countries, Pakistan’s allocations for education, 2.68% of GDP, is embarrassingly low.

The data of 2013 quoted in the study shows even neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan is spending 4.6 percent of its GDP on education. Likewise, Brazil is spending 6.3 percent, Iran, 3.7 percent, India, 3.9 percent, Rwanda, 5 percent, and South Africa is 6 percent of its GDP on education.