$1.5 billion per year – by Dr Farrukh Saleem

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Has the government of Pakistan made a plan as to how it will spend $1.5 billion that will be coming our way courtesy the Treasury Building, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC? Has any of the provincial government undertaken a need-assessment or a need-priority exercise? If we are still planning to plant pebbles then we should not expect to harvest potatoes.

The European Recovery Programme (ERP), known as the Marshall Plan, had a total of $13 billion to be shared by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The plan began in 1948 and lasted for four years. For the record: one, agriculture production in recipient countries surpassed pre-war levels. Two, the period from 1948 to 1952 “saw the fastest period of growth in European history”. Three, industrial production grew by a wholesome 35 per cent. Four, poverty took a nosedive.

What can $1.5 billion do for us? Let’s say $1 billion for education, $250 million for health and $250 million for judicial reforms. I recently saw a list of 149 countries and the number of children out of primary schools in those countries. Guess, who was at the very top of the list? Answer: Pakistan. A total of 6.3 million children out of primary schools in Pakistan followed by 2.6 million in Sudan, 1.6 million in the US, 1.3 million in Niger, 1.2 million in Cote d’Ivoire and 1.2 million in Burkina Faso.

I have done the math. Pakistan has 156,732 primary schools with 440,000 teachers and 17 million students. In order for us to put each and every Pakistani child in school we need 58,000 new schools and 163,000 new teachers. For the first year, $700 million to build, $200 million to hire 163,000 new teachers — and we will still be left with $100 million for consultants and contractors.

Here’s a group of five countries whose education spending as a percentage of their GDP is the lowest: Pakistan 1.8 per cent, the UAE 1.6 per cent, Indonesia 1.2 per cent, Ecuador 1 per cent and Equatorial Guinea 0.6 per cent. Here are the figures on female illiteracy. The worst performer is Senegal at 69.2 per cent followed by Pakistan at 69.4 per cent. Remember, ‘an ounce of mother-wit is worth a pound of school-wit’.

Next; $250 million for health. We have 965 hospitals and 107,835 registered doctors. Pakistan is the third worst performer as far as expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP is concerned (the worst is Equatorial Guinea followed by Angola). We have one of the lowest numbers of physicians per unit of population, one of the highest numbers of malaria cases, one of the highest incidences of TB (181 per 100,000) and one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds per unit of population.

With $250 million a year we can build 100 new, fully-equipped hospitals every year for a total of 500 new hospitals in the following five years. Imagine; our federal government spends an equivalent of $170 million a year on health — that budget can be doubled and we will still be left with $80 million for consultants, contractors and intermediaries.

Next; $250 million for justice. Our judges are underpaid, courts are understaffed and the legal system is technologically a hundred years in the past. Our courts need a management information system, a human resources system, family courts reforms and an efficient alternative dispute resolution infrastructure. Let the ‘force of arms give place to law and justice’.

Are we failing to plan or planning to fail?

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). Email: farrukh 15@hotmail.com



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