A comparison of district-wise distribution of development funds indicates priority attention to Nowshera, second only to the metropolitan Peshawar District. The home district of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has been allocated Rs.5.47 billion or 2.63 per cent of the total development outlay of Rs.208 billion. The funds for Nowshera are marginally less than Rs.5.9 billion allocated for the six districts of Hazara.
Hazara’s population as per the 1998 census is 5,137,289, or, six times more than Nowshera’s 874,000. Yet its share in development is 2.84 per cent compared to Nowshera’s 2.63 percent. Admittedly, the 1998 census figures are out of date. But they effectively highlight the proportional difference of numbers of people in a single district benefiting versus those condemned to live in great poverty because of inadequate investment in developing their districts.
Inequities exist even within regions. Haripur has received Rs.2.55 billion, about 14 times more than Rs.0.18 billion allocated to Battagram. Similarly, among the very poor southern districts (Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Karak, Kohat, Lakki Marwat and Tank), Rs.3.19 billion is allocated to Dera Ismail Khan, while the remaining six districts have cumulatively received Rs.3.67 billion. According to the 1998 census, the population of the seven southern districts is 1,397,430 or about double than Nowshera. Yet, the total allocation for them is Rs.6.86 billion (3.30 per cent of total development) against Rs.5.47 billion allocated to Nowshera.
A government assessment of multidimensional poverty in Pakistan (2016) shows that 60-70 per cent of households in Nowshera were poor in 2004. This has reduced to 30-40 per cent in 2015. Comparatively, poverty in Tank has remained constant since 2004, with over 70 per cent of its households categorized as poor. The people of Tank have minimal opportunities to move out of poverty with just Rs.0.06 billion allocated for its development in 2017-18, compared to Rs.5.47 billion given to Nowshera.
High priority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s budget for FY2017-18, appears to be for voter-friendly public spending on infrastructure, i.e., roads, building, housing, industries, transport and urban development. Combined, they are allocated Rs.77.37 billion which accounts for 37.2 per cent of the total budget. This funding is nearly double than the Rs.30.28 billion or 18.81 per cent allocated to this sector in the preceding FY2016-17. This steep rise likely signals preparations for the 2018 elections.
Compared to infrastructure, less priority is given to health. Its allocation has reduced from Rs.17.48 billion or 10.86 per cent in FY2016-17 to Rs.16.47 billion or 7.92 per cent this year. This is lower than the average allocation of 8.48 per cent over the past five fiscal years. While the average allocations for health and also education (16.57 per cent) show the priority given to the social sector, investments in other key sectors were meager. Drinking water supply schemes received an average of 3.29 per cent, agriculture 2.25 per cent, and, water 3.69 per cent over five years.
Funds for local government also failed to meet the threshold stipulated by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2013, i.e., at least 30 per cent of the total ADP. In FY2017-18, the allocation for local government is Rs.32.5 billion, i.e., 26 per cent of total development funds. If the vertical transfer under District ADP is considered, then the funds for local government are reduced to Rs.28.0 billion, i.e, 22.22 per cent of the total. The provincial government’s inability to meet the minimum level of fiscal decentralization it set itself may indicate the priority it places on this important governance reform. Even more surprising is the decision to divert some of the funds for local government towards allocating Rs.0.56 billion as public interest funds for the use of the Chief Minister, and Rs.0.28 billion for the Finance Minister who belongs to Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s coalition partner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These factors will likely have an adverse impact on the effectiveness of local government, which is already facing formidable challenges including the failure to disband the District Development Advisory Committees (DDACs) consisting of MPAs, creating overlapping jurisdiction over development decisions. And, the continued practice of giving constituency development funds to MPAs places them in competition with elected councilors.
The provincial government has stated its commitment to enhancing the role of women and girls in socio-economic development of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It claims that equal rights to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for all citizens, including men, women and children, is essential for reducing poverty and promoting inclusive growth. It has also approved the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Women’s Empowerment Policy in April 2015. Very limited sex-disaggregation of budget data makes it difficult to assess if allocations match stated priorities. Of the total development outlay of Rs.208 billion in FY2017-18, only Rs.12.7 billion, or 6.11 per cent, can clearly be identified as pro-women. Nearly 63 per cent of this amount, i.e., Rs.8 billion is for education. About half of this, i.e., Rs.4.2 billion is allocated for health. Social welfare has Rs.0.23 billion. These allocations indicate that the government considers women’s key interests are education, health, and social welfare. It is imperative that pro-women allocations are distinctively made and explicitly shown in all sectors, including, agriculture, roads, transport, etc., if the government is serious about enhancing the participation of women and girls in the province’s socio-economic development.