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Dhaka Tribune

CPD: Spending on education should be proportional to GDP

Share of the education sector expenditure, both as percentage of the GDP and total public expenditure, is declining

Update : 23 Apr 2022, 09:23 PM

Analyzing the budget allocation of the ongoing fiscal year (FY22), it can be seen that the education sector got the second-highest budget. But surprisingly, it was associated with “Technology,” which means the money of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant was also calculated with education.

For the upcoming FY23 budget, different stakeholders of the education sector advised the government to consider enriching the quality of education besides looking after the salaries and allowances of teachers and infrastructure development. They urged the government to increase the allocation of the education budget.

Campaign For Popular Education (Campe), Education Watch and the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) jointly organized a discussion on the theme “Education Budget: Lessons from Budget” with the title “Education and human resource development: Where do we stand” on Saturday where various inconsistencies in the government's allocation in the education sector in the last budget and advice for the upcoming FY23 budget was given. 

Research Fellow of CPD Muntaseer Kamal presented the keynote paper during the discussion session. 

In his presentation, he said: “Education has been considered to be a priority in all the successive Five-Year Plan documents of Bangladesh. However, over the years, Bangladesh was able to make limited progress in terms of providing the required budgetary allocations for education. 

“Total public expenditure on education was 1.6% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 1990, which rose to about 2% in 2000. Since then, it has been hovering around this level. However, after the rebasing of GDP (base year: 2015-16), the share came down to 1.4% in FY21.” 

“Such level of public expenditure is not commensurate with Bangladesh’s development aspirations, particularly in view of the upcoming LDC graduation and attaining the SDGs. Meanwhile, it is true that there has been some critical progress in some important indicators such as primary and secondary enrolment,” he added.

Muntaseer also said: “Besides the inadequacy of expenditure, there are concerns regarding the efficiency of deployed resources in terms of expected outcomes.” 

According to a graph presentation displayed in the seminar, it is a matter of concern that the share of the education sector expenditure, both as a percentage of the GDP and total public expenditure, is declining. 

In FY16, education expenditure, as a percentage of GDP was 1.8%. In FY17, it was 1.7%. It was 1.6%, 1.7%, 1.7% and 1.1% in FY18, FY19, FY20 and FY21 respectively. 

Although it was 2% in the FY 2021-22 primary budget, it declined to 1.1% as the base year of GDP changed. 

The FY22 budget amounted to Tk603,700 crore with Public Administration having the lion’s share at 19%, followed by Education and Technology at 16%, and Transport and Communication at 12%.

However, the quality of ADP expenditure remains a critical area of concern. 

According to the keynote paper, the quality of education remains a major area of improvement. Low teacher-student ratio, particularly in science and mathematics, and inadequate quality-enhancing training facilities for teachers affect the quality of education. 

Regarding the upcoming FY23 budget, CPD recommended enhancing the budgetary allocation for education significantly. Barring FY19 and FY20, the budget deficit was consistently below the respective target levels. For example, in FY21, the budget deficit was nearly Tk60,000 crore lower than the target, which is nearly 90% of the education budget of the corresponding year. 

The enhanced budgetary allocation can be passed to the citizens through targeted and well-designed ADP projects.

CPD also advised improving teaching quality through budgetary measures. It recommended providing adequate numbers of teachers and ensuring an effective teacher-learners ratio and improving the current in-service training of teachers.

Eminent Economist and Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Chairman Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said: “As a country, we are moving forward. We need to strengthen the education system to further integrate this progress because educated people will play a big role in human resource development.”

“Moreover, it is important for the government to increase taxes for development work. If taxes are increased, the allocation to different sectors based on GDP can also be increased,” he added.

"Apart from our education policy, it was very important for the government to set up a permanent education commission," he further said.

As a chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said: “One thing that is coming back in all the discussions here is the implementation. We also have a big vision. But in many cases, it is not happening as fast as it should be.”

He also said: “I think there are conflicts in different areas of the education sector. So, it is important to have coordination here as well. If there is an opportunity to work in the field of education, I will definitely do it.” 

Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education said: “Teachers, students, and policymakers are all here. Although students are the primary stakeholders in the education sector, they are never consulted. This time, we wanted to listen to them in the discussion.”

“The government says that they give utmost importance to education. But the reality is that the allocation is being reduced by covering the associate sectors. The education sector needs to be given more importance in the forthcoming budget considering the overall human resource development of the country," she also said.

"I always think, why not have a separate budget for education?" she asked.

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