Business Recorder – SEHRISH WASIF – ISLAMABAD (February 23 2010): Pakistan ranks 144th in UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), out of total 178 countries. According to UNDP’s HDI report, Pakistan faces enormous challenges, including poverty, poor healthcare facilities, illiteracy and a continuously soaring population. The government released between 11 to 25 percent funds earmarked for environment, education and health sectors during the first six months of the current fiscal year (July-December), out of the budgetary allocation, which reflects lack of commitment to these critical sectors. >>
Finance Ministry released Rs 268 million to Environment Ministry for development projects during the first half of current financial year, which was 11.8 percent of the Rs 2.253 billion earmarked for the entire financial year 2009-10.
According to Asian Development Bank’s Country Environment Analysis Report, 2008, pressing environmental concerns face the country relating broadly to the management of scare natural resources, pollution and waste management, potential vulnerabilities and natural hazards and climate change.
According to the World Bank Report 2006, collective estimated environmental degradation costs the country at least 6 percent of GDP, or about Rs 365 billion per year, and this costs falls disproportionately upon the poor. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education received funds amounting to Rs 2 billion which is 23.3 percent of the total budgetary allocation of Rs 8.551 billion earmarked in 2009-10 for development projects.
The government has also neglected the health sector which received 25.9 percent or Rs 6 billion during the first six months of the current fiscal year against the entire year’s budgetary allocation of Rs 23.154 billion.
In spite of Government’s tall claims of progress in health sector the people of Pakistan continue to suffer from various health issues including limited access to health facilities, wide spread malnutrition, poverty and poor living conditions. The heath development activities contrast sharply in relation to other countries at similar level of development and per capita income and reflect a backlog of many un-met needs. These concerns are over due and require urgent attention.
According to Economic Survey 2008-09, public expenditure on education as a percentage to GDP is lowest in Pakistan in the South Asian region due to fiscal resource constraints. The trend of investment on education in terms of GDP has been 2.50% and 2.47 % in the years 2006-07 and 2007-2008 respectively whereas it is estimated at 2.10 % during 2008-09.
However, Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin has vowed to enhance budget allocation for education and health sectors to 8 percent of GDP in the next five years. He said that the government is committed to enhance the budget for education and health sectors from current 3 percent to 8 percent of GDP in next five years, or by 1 percent each year, to help ensure better education and health facilities in the country.