The social sector: What the budget was likely to achieve

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Federal Finance Minister has described Budget 1986-87 as being designed to provide relief to all sections of society in need of it.

Although there is greater emphasis on the social sectors and on welfare measures than before — their allocation having risen from 12 per cent of the budget in 1982-83 to 20 per cent in 1986-87 — the increase has been less than what was envisaged in the Sixth Plan.

BudgetIn recent years the government has been vocal about the need to develop the country’s human resources in which it has so far lagged behind. The low literacy rate, inadequate health standards and poor quality of life have proved to be a drag on the nation’s long-term economic and technological advance.

Trends

Whether the government will actually succeed in reversing the negative trends in the social sectors, the budgetary increase notwithstanding, will depend on a number of factors:

  • the political will to work for the uplift of the masses,
  • the ability and willingness to mobilise the resources allocated to social development and disburse them,
  • the capacity to optimise the use of funds by minimising corruption, inefficiency, wastage and inflation
  • and finally, the degree of success in reducing the population growth so that whatever progress is achieved is not neutralised by a rapid increase in the population which creates new unmet wants.

What makes it difficult to share the government’s optimism in the matter is its failure to reorder radically its priorities when meeting the competing demands of the different sectors and its performance in the outgoing year.

For instance, in spite of all its professed commitment to the social uplift of the people, the percentage share of social services in the revenue budget remained unchanged at 3.3 per cent. Community services expenditure is also static at 1.8 per cent of current expenditure as it was in the last Federal Budget.

The lion’s share went to defence, administration and debt servicing. Even in the ADP, the social sectors’ share moved up only nominally from 14 to 16 per cent of the programme.

Although the social sector allocations had registered a significant rise in 1985-86 (about 30 per cent over the previous year) the government was unable to achieve many of its targets. The following Table 1 should suffice to show its unsatisfactory record of achievement in this sector:

The targets in a few cases were met. But given the failure rate in others, the impact of success in the immunisation of ORT programmes and in opening of mosque schools was neutralised.

This clearly indicates that either the targets laid down are too ambitious or the sum allocated too little. In view of the fact that increase in the allocations in the ADP for the social sectors next year is 40 per cent it would be unrealistic to expect the expansion to be much more than before.

Education

Much emphasis has of late been placed on promoting education. The Prime Minister’s five-point programme seeks to raise the literacy rate from 26 to 50 per cent by 1990.

In 1985-86 the Iqra Fund was launched by imposing a five per cent surcharge on imports. According to the revised estimates in the Federal Budget, a sum of Rs 4168 million was collected under this head. Budget 1985-86 had projected this to be Rs 4685 million. In 1986-87 this is expected to be Rs 4397 million.

But the Iqra Fund has yet to be put to effective use. According to the Federal Finance Minister, a high-powered Board, comprising Planning and Education and the Chief Ministers of the provinces, is to draw up the plans for the utilisation of the Iqra Fund.

Allocation

Education is to receive a total allocation of Rs 15.2 billion for recurring and development expenditure in the Federal and Provincial budgets in 1986-87. This constitutes 2.4 per cent of the GNP and is an increase of 26 per cent over the preceding year. There are some aspects of the education budget which need to be noted.

Budget-tableFirst, it still falls short of the UNESCO recommendation of four per cent of GNP. Secondly, only 30 per cent of the allocation is for development which means expansion is bound to be slow. Thus recurring expenditure on education will be to the tune of Rs 10.49 billion while non-recurring expenditure will be Rs 4.69 billion in 1986-87.

A significant aspect of the education budget is the emphasis on mass literacy which is to get Rs 290 million in 1986-87, as compared with Rs 60 million this year, teacher’s training (Rs 1170 million), promotion of science among secondary level teachers (Rs 560 million) educational scholarships for needy students and university education which has been allocated Rs 430 million in the ADP.

In spite of the increased allocations, the development targets for next year appear to be rather too ambitious: opening of 11,000 new primary and mosque schools (about 5.000 were open this year), expansion of 1,500 primary schools, training of 29,000 teachers and science orientation courses for 17,000 teachers.

Given the government’s previous record, the small share of education in the total budget and the ineffectual manner in which plans are implemented, it is improbable that the goal of 50 per cent literacy by 1990 will be achieved.

Health

The allocation for health has shown a substantial increase in recent years. The federal revenue expenditure on health for 1986-87 is projected to be Rs 551 million — a 37 per cent rise from Rs 401 million this year. It was Rs 294 million in 1984-85. But the rise in recurring expenditure does not necessarily reflect the expansion of facilities or improvement in the quality of healthcare.

Since the development budget does not show a corresponding increase — it has risen by 21 per cent from Rs 1.8 billion in 1985-86 to Rs 2.1 billion in 1986-87 — the pace of expansion will be slow.

In fact, the health sector in the Federal ADP has registered a decline from Rs 860 million in 1985-86 to Rs 700 million in 1986-87.

Under the PM’s programme, it is planned to have one Basic Health Unit (BHU) in every Union Council by 1990. At present 2796 Union Councila have a health facility while 1334 are without a BHU or Rural Health Centre (RHC). In 1986-87 373 new units will be established and 25 mobile dispensaries will be set up.

As important as.launching a new health facility is the need to equip it and staff it adequately. According to the Finance Minister, every BHU will have one doctor, 3 or 4 paramedical staff and facilities for a laboratory and maternity and child care.

The RHC will have three doctors, a laboratory, an operating theatre and 25 beds. This plan appears perfect on paper. How it is actually implemented will determine its success or otherwise. At present many health facilities in the rural areas are not functioning on account of lack of staff and basic amenities.

he significance of this sector has come to be acknowledged in recent years especially now that it is realised that without measures to check the runaway population growth rate, no economic progress is possible. Hence lately the allocation for this sector has registered a considerable rise.

From Rs 300 million in 1984-85, the development budget for population rose to Rs 503 million in 1985-86. It will be Rs 576 million in 1986-87. The revenue expenditure will rise to Rs 2 million next year from Rs 1.7 million in 1985-86.

Questions

The Population Division’s budget raises some pertinent questions. In view of the pattern of growth in other sectors, the slow growth in the recurring expenditure of the population budget over the years is a bit intriguing.

If expansion has taken place, the increased manpower should have pushed up the recurring expenditure. Since the Economic Survey has stopped giving details of the contraceptive services dispensed and welfare centres opened and the results of the last fertility survey have not yet been made’ public, there is no way to evaluate the performance of the Government in this sector.

Another feature of the population budget which does not reflect too, favourably on the government’s commitment to population planning is its disproportionately high foreign aid component.

Nearly 66 per cent of the population budget is financed by international agencies and foreign governments who are known to be exerting tremendous pressure on Pakistan to adopt an effective population programme.

Women

This is another segment of the population in need of extraordinary efforts to improve its status. The government has sought to express its professed concern for the uplift of women by drawing up plans for their welfare. The amount allocated for development expenditure on women is no more than a token. Yet it has been scaled down in the last two years. In 1985-86 revised estimates it came down to Rs 97 million from the budgeted sum of Rs 100 million. It is projected to be Rs 93 million in 1986-87. However a sum of Rs 53.7 million has been allocated for special programmes for women for next year — the first time this head has been created. It is not clear why this amount has been earmarked separately.

Workers

Budget 1986-87 is specially directed towards the working classes it is expected to enhance the social security benefits extended to the workers. It is believed that this step has been taken to neutralise the growing appeal of the Pakistan People’s Party in low-income groups especially after the return of Ms Benazir Bhutto.

The measures which are expected to benefit the working classes are:

  • the mimimum and maximum monthly pension has been raised from Rs 90 to Rs 306 and from Rs 517 to Rs 1260.
  • The pension scheme will apply to the first Rs 1500 of the wages of all workers irrespective of their income level.
  • The existing rates of compensation under the Workmen Compensation Act has been doubled from Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000.
  • The rate of indexation of wages has been raised. An insurance scheme has been introduced to provide cover to a breadwinner who dies as a result of an accident. His family will receive Rs 10,000.
  • Special measures have been taken in the housing sector. Rs 500 million have been allocated for the seven marla scheme under which one million residential plots will be provided for the homeless in the rural areas.
  • Nearly113,000 new jobs are to be created for teachers and 7,000 jobs for medical personnel.

Source: Dawn 14 June 1986