ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers from both the treasury and opposition benches in National Assembly on Wednesday questioned the government’s decision to borrow $300 million from World Bank for the development of higher education sector.
They were of the opinion that after the adoption by parliament of the 18th Amendment, the subject of education had been devolved to provinces. Therefore, borrowing such a huge amount by the federal government for education made little sense.
The issue came up for discussion in the house during a debate on a query put by Nisar Tanveer of PML N.
In a supplementary question on the issue, Riaz Pirzada, the PML-Q’s chief whip in the house, asked the government if it was serious in implementing the amendment. Once the subject of education had been devolved to the provinces, all matters pertaining to it should be handled by the federating units.
He said the government should explain why it wanted to borrow $300 million, which was a huge amount.
Hameedullah Jan Afridi, of the treasury benches, also questioned the move. He said that after the passage of the amendment even the subject of curriculum had been devolved to the provinces. In such a situation it seemed strange that the federal government wanted to borrow money for higher education.
In a written reply, provided in the name of an unnamed education minister, the house was informed that the $300 million loan was being negotiated to support implementation of the first phase of the government’s higher education development programme, as outlined in the second medium-term development framework for the higher education sector for 2011-2015.
It said the programme was aimed at ensuring fiscal sustainability in tertiary education, improving the quality and relevance of teaching and research, improving equitable access to tertiary education and strengthening governance and management.
The statement said that Pakistan had one of the lowest ratios in the world of people having access to higher education — only 5.1 per cent of the people aged 17 to 23 years are currently enrolled in institutions of higher education.
“It is imperative to enhance access to quality education in Pakistan so that we join ranks of the developed world,” it said.
The education policy approved by the cabinet called for increasing enrollment in higher education to 10 per cent of the said age group by 2015.
For this purpose significant financial resources were required.
The $300 million loan has been offered to the country at extremely attractive rates (it’s actually interest free) and will help alleviate financial problems and allow the government to implement its education policy, according to the statement.
Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Mian Raza Rabbani, who also heads the Implementation Commission on 18th Amendment, said that under Item 12 part-II of the Fourth Schedule/of Federal legislative List of the 18th Amendment, the standards in institutions of higher education and scientific and technical institutions had been declared a federal subject.
He added that elements opposed to the devolution plan were raining superfluous issues.Dawn