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May 28, 2017

Fapuasa dubs federal budget 2017-18 as ‘hopeless’


May 28, 2017

Following the announcement of federal budget 2017-18, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa) has dubbed it as disappointing and hopeless. The body feels that the policy makers are yet to understand the functioning of higher education.

The Secretary General Fapuasa, Dr Shakeel Farooqi stated on Saturday that if the education budget wasn’t even reaching the earmark of globally agreed upon minimum benchmark, four percent, then not could be expected from the allocated amount.    

The FAPUASA demands an increase in the recurrent grants by 30 percent, which would signify a 1:2 ratio between recurring and development grants. The body asks for a housing schemes and a comprehensive healthcare system for the universities’ staff, and raising the age of superannuation to 65. It also calls for tax exemption on the purchase of books and educational supplies and equipment alongside restoration of 75 percent rebate in income tax for teachers. It further asks for a 25 percent increase in house rent and tax exemptions on travelling for academic and research purposes.

He mentioned that in the current budget there is a meagre 20.6 percent increase for the higher education, however, even this increase is further broken down to 66.6 percent increase in development funding and a negligible 3.8 percent increase in the recurring expenses.

Dr Farooqi pointed out that last year, higher education budget was Rs79.5 billion out of which Rs21.5 billion was earmarked for development and Rs58 billion was allocated for recurrent grant. This year Rs95.9 billion have been allocated for higher education, out of which Rs35.7 billion is for development and Rs60.2 billion is for recurrent expenses.

“It is shocking as to how universities would meet the expenses coming from 10 to 15 percent increase in salaries and pensions as announced by the government with an increase of 3.8 percent only in recurring grant,” he said.

Addressing the cost of procurement of local and imported scientific equipment and consumables, which has increased mainly due to taxes and inflation, he said it is now resulting into a mammoth shortfall.

“Funds allocated for development always need a lot of explanation especially when they are inflated in the election year,” he added.

Dr Shakeel further said that announcements of establishing more universities were alarming and schemes like distribution of laptops must raise many questions. He felt it was unfortunate that the allocation for Benazir income support was higher than that the allocation for higher education.

He added that the government had withdrawn a 75 percent tax rebate for the teachers in 2013 and the teachers’ associations across country were demanding the restoration of this tax exemption.

“The government has been announcing a number of tax amnesties in all sectors but higher education. Lack of beneficial provident fund schemes, comprehensive health care policies, among other measures are discouraging highly qualified people to serve in this sector,” he lamented.

The Fapauasa Secretary General added that those who are engaged in higher education were compelled to shift to other avenue.

“They deserve an exemption in income tax which Budget 2017-18 failed to restore. Government announces raise in salaries and pension but always fails to provide a timely additional grant to meet these expenses, thus exerting more pressure on the autonomous institutions,” he stressed.

He observed that each year, federal and provincial budgets were being lowered for educationists and researchers and now for the third consecutive year, the budget has failed to reach the standard four percent of total budget.

“For the current year, recommendation to allocate Rs1,363 billion for debt service, which happens to be more than a quarter of total budget, is alarming. It is even more than what the country will be spending on its development projects. A 66 percent increase in the development grant in higher education against a negligible 3.8 percent increase in the recurrent grant reflects the value of high education,” Dr Farooqi said.

He claimed that merging all allowances in basic pay would further increase the burden of pension which has already created a havoc for the government.

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