HRCP 2011-12 budget Economy Watch: Not enough fiscal space for rights-based work -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

HRCP 2011-12 budget Economy Watch: Not enough fiscal space for rights-based work

LAHORE: The 2011-12 budget had 20.9 per cent of allocations for the protection of social, economic and human rights, which is only 4.65 per cent of the GDP – an amount less than the desired expenditure on education and health.

Releasing its post-budget Economy Watch at a press conference, HRCP officials said they hoped that the budget would mark a break with the past neglect of rights in terms of financial allocations. The failure to adequately tax the rich, rising security spending, wasteful ways of the government and unsustainable burden of debt do not leave much fiscal space for rights based development.

The focus of the federal budget continues to be national security and repayment of debts. The federal budget earmarked Rs495.2 billion for defence. This official definition only includes demands for grants for Defence Division and Defence Services. The true extent of defence expenditure requires a number of adjustments, the HRCP said.

In the first place are the expenditures made by the Ministry of Defence on airports security force, meteorology, Survey of Pakistan, federal government educational institutions in cantonments and garrisons, development expenditure of Defence Division and development expenditure of federal government educational institutions in cantonments?

With these additions, the defence budget goes up to Rs505.7 billion. Secondly, the current and development expenditures of Defence Production Division add another Rs2 billion. Thirdly, military pensions, taken out of defence budget in 2000, amount to Rs73.2 billion. Lastly, around Rs1.1 billion has been allocated for the recurrent budget and seven development projects of universities controlled by the military. These additional allocations increase the defence budget from Rs495.2 billion to Rs582 billion.

Reportedly, an allocation of Rs150 billion shown in the budget as a contingent liability is to be used for the armed services development. Expenditures on the nuclear programme and intelligence agencies are hard to pinpoint leaving these grey areas aside, the defence budget of Rs582 billion will consume 21 per cent of the total budget and 29.8 per cent of the revenue to be collected by the Federal Board of Revenue.

The defence budget is estimated at 2.8 per cent of the GDP. This is far more than the countries with a similar size of the GDP spent on this head. This eats right into the fiscal space for social sector and human security. Against the official defence allocation of Rs582 billion, the entire social sector allocation by the federal and four provincial governments is Rs440.3billion – difference of 24.3 per cent.

RULE OF LAW: Pakistan`s internal peace has seriously been disrupted since 9/11. Sectarian conflict has already taken a violent turn earlier. As a result, there has been a massive increase in the expenditures on internal security or law and order from Rs31 billion in 2001-02 to Rs211.53 billion in the federal and provincial budgets of 2011-12. The actual expenditure is likely to be more, as it was in 2010-11. Against the budget allocation of Rs193.26 billion in 2010-11, the revised expenditure was Rs205.31 billion.

Law and order is a provincial subject. Of the total allocation of Rs211.53 billion in 2011-12, the federal government has provided in its budget Rs59.21 billion. The balance is provided for in the provincial budgets. The largest amount of Rs62.93 billion has been allocated in the Punjab budget, followed by Rs37.94 billion in Sindh, Rs21.88 billion in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Rs10.2 billion in Balochistan.

Clearly, the budgetary expenditure related to rule of law has increased. However, it is not enough to spend money. The number of dead, injured and affected in other ways due to the weakening rule of law has been rising. Target killings, sectarian killings, suicide bombings, kidnappings, bank robberies, and dacoities have been on the rise. Only a few are arrested and even fewer are convicted for lack of evidence, perfunctory prosecution and courts` being under intimidation.

Health: After the devolution, the federal ministry of health has ceased to exist. The federal government is now concerned only with port quarantine, insofar as the Federal Legislative List (Part I) is concerned. The HRCP has always recommended that allocation of resources for health has always been low in Pakistan. The trend must be reversed to recognize it as a fundamental right. Rural-urban disparities in the quality of healthcare must end. A firm commitment for giving priority to the health needs of women and children. The inclusion of emergency healthcare plans in the disaster management manual, a key lesson of the 2010 floods. Population planning should be integrated into the health system.

Education: In 2010, after 63 years of the independence, the Constitution of Pakistan recognized the right to education as a fundamental right through the 18th Amendment. Article 25(A), inserted to give effect to the right to education, reads as follows: ¯The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law. Education has largely been a provincial subject, but the federal government had encroached upon the provincial autonomy in education. The provinces are now fully responsible for the education sector. The federal government is concerned only with standards of higher education and international student exchange. Higher education, curriculum, syllabus, planning and policy are with the provinces. This is a reflection of the fact that Pakistan is a multicultural country.

Source: DAWN