Sindh vision 2030: Desirable or achievable | By Rashid A Mughal


Sindh vision 2030: Desirable or achievable

THE Sindh “Vision 2030” outlines the priorities of the Sindh government. It is organized according to the thematic areas of poverty, health, education, employment, effective governance, land, water and infrastructure.

This PER analyzes the extent to which the allocation of funds is in accordance with the priorities set out in the “Vision 2030”.

With a significant increase in resources, both from federal transfers and OSR, the Sindh Government has had extra fiscal space to enhance expenditure.

While a significant portion of this increased fiscal space was consumed by government employees-related spending, the Sindh Government was nonetheless able to increase spending on development as well.

Government development expenditure grew 2.5 times in real terms in the six-year from FY09 to FY15, while recurrent expenditure increased 1.7 times in real terms in the same period.

This meant that development expenditure as a share of total expenditure increased from 13 to 30 per cent in this period.

Nonetheless, government employee-related salaries and allowances have become the largest component of recurrent expenditure, rising from 33 per cent in FY12 to 46 per cent in FY15.

Similarly, government employees’ pensions increased from 7 per cent of recurrent expenditure in FY12 to 10 per cent in FY15.

These increases, which are of a permanent nature, imply that employees-related expenditure will continue to take a sizeable portion of provincial fiscal space in foreseeable future, limiting the room for new developmental initiatives that the provincial government may wish to undertake.

In addition, data reveals that these increases in employee-related expenditure have had little or no impact on the quality or quantity of service delivery, or on developmental outcomes.

Despite these increasing budget rigidities, the government was able to increase its operating expenditure.

The Sindh Government has made progress in its policy goal of increasing spending on operating expenditure, which grew by an annual average of 16 per cent from FY09 to FY15, only marginally lower than the annual rate of increase in overall recurrent expenditure, at 18 per cent.

This expenditure was allocated to provide better communications, transportation, office consumables and utilities — expenditure that is generally associated with the quality of public services.

Expenditure on all the social sectors averaged about one-third of total recurrent expenditure in the 6-year period between FY09 and FY15, but the share is subject to volatility because of the ad-hoc nature of much social protection spending.

Recurrent expenditure on education and health increased, while recurrent expenditure on social protection decreased during this period.

Over the period, recurrent expenditure on the social sectors increased 3.3 times in nominal terms and 1.9 times in real terms, with the highest increase in health, followed by education. Education now consumes about one-quarter of total recurrent expenditure.

In real terms, public spending on education grew at an average rate of 11 per cent per annum between FY09 and FY15, slightly faster than overall real recurrent expenditure, at 9.5 per cent annually over the same period.
This increase in education sector spending has not been uniform overtime.

After the passage of 18th (Constitutional) Amendment, the Sindh Government started to increase resources for education and health.

Expenditure on education was just 17 per cent of total recurrent expenditure in FY12, but this share jumped to 25 per cent in FY13, and has remained more or less at this level subsequently.

The health sector is ranked fifth in terms of average resource allocation by the Sindh government over the six-year period between FY09 and FY15.

Health recurrent expenditure increased from seven per cent of total recurrent expenditure in FY09 to nine per cent in FY15. Much of this spending was allocated to health operating expenses, including spending on medicine, repairs and maintenance, and petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) for generators.

Weak governance and management is a major underlying issue behind all the ills that plague the health sector in particular and other sectors in general.

The Health Department in Sindh is faced with an over-centralization of authority, too many vertical programs, and a lack of mechanisms to enhance accountability and transparency. There is also weak oversight of service delivery and no clear M&E framework.

Improving sector governance is now all the more important in the post-devolution environment, given that the focus of the mandate has shifted from purely one of service delivery to include the new challenge of the stewardship of the entire health sector.

While the government aims at protecting the poorest of the poor through social protection interventions, there is no coherent strategy or a targeting mechanism.

Currently, Sindh SPL initiatives are conceived, planned, and executed in a piecemeal fashion, scattered across several line departments and autonomous governing bodies. There is no central entity to plan, consolidate, coordinate and monitor these SPL interventions.

SPL programs have a limited outreach, focused on a few geographical areas, and cover only a fraction of Sindh’s vulnerable and at-risk population.

The number of beneficiaries and services/benefits being offered are too few or too small to have any meaningful impact.

In FY15, the most recent year for which data is available, at most only 1.3 million people benefited from SPL interventions, a mere 2.5 per cent of Sindh’s population and only 7.5 per cent of Sindh’s poor population.

Sindh’s SPL sector is primarily driven by untargeted regressive subsidies, benefiting the non-poor more than the poor due to the former’s greater purchasing power.

Most SPL programs either do not target the poor at all, or rely on very loosely defined community-targeting mechanisms.

The absence of a central coordinating agency and robust analysis of SP-related risks and vulnerabilities has resulted in a weak understanding of the role of SP interventions. This in turn has led to a plethora of inadequate and inequitable SP programs that have little impact on eradicating poverty.

The major problem Sindh is facing is colossal and unchecked corruption in almost every area of government funding and spending.

It is rampant and all-pervasive. Nothing moves in any government department unless the palms of the concerned government functionaries are not greased.

Poor quality of work executed in building roads and bridges which are washed away in just one rain spell bear testimony to the level of prevalent corruption. The rulers of Sindh need to look into it on a top priority basis.

Under present scenario, planning for 2030 will perhaps be only desirable and wishful thinking but far from achievable if corruption at all levels is not eradicated and examplenary punishment is not awarded to those indulging in it.

Reducing poverty and meeting UN goal of enhancing income will remain a distant dream if social safety net is not put in order.

— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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