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Editorial – Health budgets

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As the budgets, whether it’s a federal budget or that of a province, according to economists, must reflect people’s aspirations, a testament of their hopes, and evidence of trust they have reposed in their legislators, let’s have a glance at the fiscal 2016-17 years’ health budgets of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa presented, so far, in their respective assemblies.

At a time when social indicators of Sindh continue to decline, province in its next financial year budget (2016-17) has focused more on high-visibility projects and development schemes, instead of giving weight to the most neglected health sector.

While having a cursory look at the budgets of both the Sindh and the Punjab’s next financial year’s budgets, one would see that former has allocated Rs65.9 billion for health, Rs160.7 bn for education sector and Rs82.3 bn for law and order, while the latter (Punjab) has earmarked Rs70.1 bn for health, Rs64.6 bn for education and Rs132 bn for law and order, thereby meaning both the provinces have allocated more funds for law and order than the health sector.

Unveiling Rs1.452 trillion budget for the fiscal 2016-17 in the Punjab Assembly, provincial Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus-Pasha in her budget speech said that the provision of healthcare, education, clean water and security were the top priority of the Punjab government.Elaborating, she said that the health allocations are 62pc higher than the current year.

Likewise, presenting Sindh’s next financial year budget in the provincial assembly, Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said: “Sindh government had been following the policy of spending a major portion of the budget on four priority sectors – health, education, law and order and local government.”  

Listing Sindh government’s priority sectors, he said that Rs160.7 bn had been earmarked for education sector, followed by Rs82.3 bn for law and order and Rs65.9 bn for health sector. However, priorities of the minister or his government could be gauged from the fact that of the total 50,000 jobs proposed to be created in the next financial year, 20,000 to be provided in the Sindh police, 10,000 in the education department and only 3,500 in the health sector.

On the contrary, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while setting aside Rs19.3 billion for health in its budget for the fiscal 2016-17 had proposed to create 36,232 jobs, mostly in the health and education sectors.

Presenting the KP budget in the provincial assembly, Finance Minister Muzaffar Said also announced that health insurance would be expanded in every nook and cranny of the province with an estimated cost of Rs3 billion. The government will provide health insurance facilities to the tune of 1,75,000, per annum to benefit 10 million poor households, the minister declared amid loud applause. 

Though most of expenditure increases are in the traditional provincial spheres of health, education and law and order, there is still a strong need to enhance budgets for the health and the education sectors.

People of all the four provinces are justified in their expectations that their respective governments will leave no stone un turned in providing them better healthcare facilities as the health and the education have now become the provincial subjects in the wake of 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

June 22, 2016

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