The Promise

In the 2013 general elections major political parties’ manifestoes articulated education financing commitments.

The ruling party has since reiterated its promise of 4 percent throughout its term in office. The Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has personally reiterated his party’s promise of increasing education budget to 4 percent of the GDP at various local and international fora. The Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Ishaq Dar has also renewed the government’s commitment to increase the education budget to 4 percent of the GDP, most recently during the budget speech in the parliament in 2016. On the other hand, the improvements in budgetary allocations for education have consistently missed the 4 percent mark on a yearly basis.

Renewing the promise

PML N manifesto for 2013 general elections outlined the party’s commitment regarding education financing. On page 37 of the manifesto, the PML N pledged that “increased resources will be allocated for education sector ensuring proper and timely utilization of funds to reach the UNESCO target of 4 percent of GDP by 2018.”

PMLN Manifesto 2013

In March 2014, the Prime Minister renewed the promise of increasing the education budget to 4 percent of the GDP.

Literacy movement: 4% GDP for education by 2018, vows Nawaz (Tribune)

4% for education in GDP by 2018: PM (Dawn)

Education will be given 4% of GDP by 2018: PM (The News)

In September 2014, the Prime Minister met with United Nations Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown in New York. In the meeting the Prime Minister said that the government is committed to taking the education budget to 4 percent of GDP by 2018.

Committed to taking education budget to 4% of GDP by 2018: PM (Radio Pakistan)

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar reinforced the government’s promise during his budget speech in 2015 on the floor of the parliament.

Committed to taking the education budget to 4 percent by May 2018

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister of Pakistan

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz made a commitment to allocate 4 percent of the national GDP towards the education budget. Commitments made in the election manifestos are pledges that different political parties make for when they come into power. Hence, it is their responsibility to follow through on these pledges when they are afforded an opportunity by the voters. At one level, it has been heartening to see that the PML N government has on repeated occasions reiterated its commitment to raise the education budget to 4 percent of the GDP. The Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has personally reiterated his party’s promise of increasing education budget to 4 percent of the GDP at various local and international fora. The Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Ishaq Dar has also renewed the government’s commitment to increase the education budget to 4 percent of the GDP, most recently during the budget speech in the parliament in 2016. On the other hand, the improvements in budgetary allocations for education have consistently missed the 4 percent mark consistently on a yearly basis.

The Delivery

Yearly allocations towards education have shown a significant upward trend over the last 5 years. However, a far reaching agenda for education to tackle the layered challenges of quality and access requires a transformative vision and robust political will.

While the allocations have increased significantly in absolute terms, the budgets as proportion of the total GDP has improved marginally.

For the year 2016-17 the total education budget was PKR 790.704 billion. It comprises of four provincial education budgets as well as the federal education budget.

Since 2013, provincial and federal budgets for education have improved at different rates. Overall, the net education budget has increased by PKR 210.9 billion.

The Balance

We have observed a yearly increase since 2013 in the net education budget that can at best be called incremental when viewed alongside the scale of the challenge at hand – to provide quality education to all children of Pakistan.

In the financial year 2016-17, the total education budget was PKR 790. 704 billion. This amounted to 2.83 percent of the GDP. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the country’s total GDP was over PKR 27,900 billion. As per the government’s commitment (4 percent of GDP) the total education budget for the financial year 2016-17 should have been PKR 1116 billion.

For the financial year 2017-18, even if we assume that the total GDP does not increase, the government will have to allocate additional PKR 325 billion. In the likely case of GDP having increased from last year, the net increase to PKR 790.704 billion allocated last year will have to be even higher than PKR 325 billion.

The yearly allocations made for education, though increased consistently, have fallen well short of the required amounts to achieve the target of 4 percent of the GDP.