Education, health to get boost in next ADP
Industry Desk: The proposed ADP of Tk2,63,000 crore in 15 sectors for the next financial year includes Tk94,000 crore in foreign aid.
The education sector is set to receive a 62% higher ADP allocation for the upcoming fiscal 2023-24, with the aim of recovering from the impact of Covid-19 by preventing dropouts, enhancing education quality, and developing infrastructure and higher education.
Sources within the Planning Commission have revealed that Tk29,889 crore has been proposed for the education sector in the next Annual Development Programme (ADP), up from Tk18,431 crore in the revised ADP for this year.
The increased allocation represents 11.36% of the total proposed ADP, making it the third-highest allocation among all sectors.
The health sector has also received a boost with a proposed allocation of Tk16,204 crore, which is 27% higher than the current fiscal year, said Planning Commission sources.
Sector-wise, the transport and communication sector has the highest allocation with Tk75,944.62 crore proposed, while the power and energy sector follows with Tk44,393 crore with priority given to projects undertaken to improve the transmission and distribution network, and the Rooppur nuclear power and Matarbari coal power projects, the sources added.
Prioritising education, health
The Secondary and Higher Education Division is to receive a significant allocation of Tk14,385 crore in the proposed ADP for FY24, up from Tk7,218 crore in the revised ADP for the current fiscal year.
Mollah Mizanur Rahman, joint-secretary (Development) of the division, believes that the education sector is entering a new era.
The development of new education infrastructure requires significant funds, and with the changing curriculum, skill development is necessary alongside infrastructure development, he said. For this reason, importance has been given to creating skilled manpower in the education sector.
The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education’s proposed allocation has also seen a significant increase, rising to around Tk12,000 crore from Tk7,785 crore.
Md Ashrafuzzaman, joint-secretary (Planning) of the ministry, stated that the increased allocation was necessary to strengthen the implementation of the Fourth Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP-4) in the upcoming fiscal year. The demand for this programme for the next financial year is estimated to be around Tk8,500 crore, he said.
In addition, an allocation of around Tk1,200 crore has been proposed for the school feeding programme to prevent dropouts by providing nutritious meals to students and ensuring their continued participation in the education system.
However, education experts think the amount is still inadequate. Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education, explained that while the budget allocation for education increases every year from a quantitative perspective, the increase is not significant when we consider the rise in the number of students.
She pointed out that the government’s policy documents commit to raising the spending figure in education to 20%. She urged the government to allocate at least 15% of the total budget for education.
“Unlike various other sectors, education does not have any mega projects. If education does not get sufficient allocation now, we will have to hire skilled manpower from abroad to maintain projects like the Padma Bridge after 15-20 years.”
State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam told that the government’s goal is to maintain the current pace of economic growth while prioritising employment.
He emphasised the importance of human resource development, stating that it is now more crucial than infrastructure as the country works towards becoming a developed nation.
According to the minister, investing in education and health is equivalent to investing in human resources.
He stated that the government needs to allocate a significant amount of funds to education, especially in primary schools that require modern technological and lab facilities. Additionally, all levels of education require development, and physical infrastructure should be given special attention.
Furthermore, the health system needs improvement, and the government needs to spend money on the health sector to make the country self-reliant. The minister believes that measures should be taken to prevent people from going abroad for treatment purposes.
State Minister Shamsul also said that in addition to increasing the budget allocation, the government is also taking various necessary initiatives to ensure that the Education and Health ministries can effectively utilise the allocated funds. To achieve this, the government is strengthening the monitoring system to ensure proper implementation of projects and programmes.
Poor implementation vs major hike in health allocation
Planning Commission officials have stated that the health sector has been a priority for the government, especially in the post-Covid period. However, the funds allocated for development projects in the sector cannot be fully spent due to various reasons.
The original Annual Development Plan (ADP) for the current financial year allocated Tk19,278 crore to the health sector. However, this figure was reduced to Tk12,745 crore in the revised ADP as previous funds went unused.
According to data from the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED), the Health Services Division has received the highest allocation among ministries and divisions, but its ADP implementation rate is the lowest.
In the first nine months of the current financial year, the Health Services Division has been able to spend only 27% of the allocated funds.
Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, a professor at the Institute of Health Economics, Dhaka University, believes that the health sector needs three times more than the current budget allocation.
He pointed out that the budgetary allocation to the health sector may increase by 17% year-on-year in FY24, based on a government-reported inflation rate of 10%. However, this increase will not be sufficient to meet the health sector’s needs.
“And if the allocation is reduced mid-year due to poor implementation, the 27% increase in allocation will be useless.”
Dr Hamid observed that the Health Ministry’s biggest problem is the inability to manage cost, particularly at the facility level. Spending is held back due to apprehension of audits. Punitive measures like blocked pensions and legal cases by the Anti-Corruption Commission can result in termination from jobs.
He believes that this fear must be addressed for health expenditure to increase. Corruption is a concern, but it must be curbed through other means, such as modifying the audit system and management processes for the Health Ministry.
Dr Hamid concluded that delays in other areas may be acceptable, but lives will be at risk if there is a lack of hospital services.
Transports and communication gets highest allocation
According to officials from the Planning Commission, the transport and communication sector has been allocated the highest ADP in the upcoming fiscal year prioritising the ongoing mega infrastructure projects such as the Karnaphuli tunnel, metro rail, Jamuna rail bridge, Padma rail link, Dhaka elevated expressway, and Matarbari port development.
The officials further added that several significant communication infrastructure projects are in their final stages of implementation, including the Karnaphuli tunnel, Padma rail link, and Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar, which are scheduled to be completed in the next fiscal year.
Additionally, the Agargaon-Kamalapur Metrorail Line (MRT-6) project is also in its final stages of implementation. The construction of the country’s first underground subway from the Airport to Kamalapur in the capital (MRT-1) will start next year, and the Matarbari port development work will also speed up.
Other projects, such as the construction of the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal Airport and the implementation of large projects like the Bangabandhu Rail Bridge, will also gain momentum, the officials said.
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