MPs given Rs73m for medical treatment from Jan 2017 to March 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Secretariat spent Rs73.13 million for the treatment of MNAs from January 2017 till March 2019.

The PML-N and PTI, both the ruling parties, preferred their own party members while reimbursing their medical bills, reveals the data received through Right of Access to Information Act 2017.

The analysis of the data reveals that during the PML-N regime, the ruling party MNAs were given priority as 23 out of 50 MNAs have been paid their medical bills from January 2017 to May 31, 2018. The PML-N government reimbursed a total of Rs57,682,440 (Rs57.68 million) to 50 MNAs from different parties for their medical treatment out of which Rs51,165,373 (Rs51.16 million) were given to its own 23 MNAs.

Similarly, following in the footstep of its predecessor, the PTI government is also favoring its own MNAs. The analysis of the data shows that from June 2018 till March 2019, the PTI-led government has reimbursed the medical bills of 33 MNAs worth Rs15,451,759 (Rs15.45 million). Out of the total Rs15.45 million, 12 MNAs of PTI have been reimbursed Rs8,767,534 (Rs8.76 million) whereas the remaining Rs6,684,225 had been given to 21 MNAs of different parties. The present government has also reimbursed Rs2,863,822 (Rs2.8 million) to six PML-N MNAs.

As per data, six MNAs of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) were reimbursed Rs2,155,521 (Rs2.15 million) during the last one and a half years of PML-N regime. Similarly, PTI government has reimbursed Rs103,781 to two PPP MNAs. Similarly, three JUI-F MNAs were reimbursed Rs1,662,774 (Rs1.66 million) during PML-N regime but no one from the party has been given any amount during the PTI government.

The analysis of the data further reveals that the amount spent on the members of the lower house during these two years is much higher than the amount spent on MNAs from 2008 to 2017. A total of 83 MNAs have reimbursed their medical bills from the National Assembly (NA) Secretariat during the last two years, the data reveals.

The data received from NA Secretariat on the RTI request filed by a citizen Moonus Kayinat Zahra reveals that a total of 27 MNAs got their medical bills worth Rs2128,9101 (Rs21.28 million) reimbursed from the NA Secretariat from January 2017 to December 2017. Similarly, 32 parliamentarians received Rs45,209,386 (Rs45.20 million) as medical reimbursement from the lower house secretariat. The data further reveals that 18 MNAs have received Rs6,629,658 (Rs6.62 million) from the NA Secretariat from January 2019 to March 2019.

According to the data, late Najaf Abbas Sial (PML-N) was reimbursed Rs30,086,256 (Rs30.08 million) in 2018 for his medical treatment. Sahibzada Muhammad Nazeer Sultan (PML-N) was the second highest who received Rs11,860,611 (Rs11.86 million) from the NA Secretariat for his medical treatment in 2017.

Third on the list of highest reimbursement is ex-MNA Mian Muhammad Farooq (PML-N) who received Rs5,417,110 (Rs5.41 million) during 2017 and 2018. In 2017, he received Rs3,415,110 and Rs2,002,000 in 2018. Similarly, sitting MNA Dr Haider Ali Khan (PTI) has received Rs4,717,668 (Rs4.71 million) from the NA Secretariat in 2019.

As per data, there are four other MNAs, who received more than one million rupees from the NA Secretariat for their medical bills reimbursement. The data shows that Pir Noor Muhammad Shah Jeelani (PPP) received Rs1,559,309 (Rs1.55 million) in 2018, Sardar Umar Farooq Khan, ex-MNA received Rs1,506,628 (Rs1.5 million) in 2018, Sher Ali Akbar (PTI) received Rs3,315,122 (Rs3.31 million) in 2018 and Ch Muhammad Ashraf (PML-N) received Rs1,360,415 (Rs1.36 million) in 2018. The remaining MNAs’ medical bills reimbursement is less than one million rupees.

Whereas there are a few MNAs whose medical bills amount is in thousands. Earlier, this correspondent had also filed an RTI request in 2017 and received the information from NA Secretariat about the total expenditure incurred on the medical treatment of parliamentarians from 2008 to 2017.

According to the data, this correspondent received in 2017, the NA Secretariat spent Rs64.38 million for the medical treatment of its member from 2008 to 2017. As per the documents provided by the NA Secretariat, out of the total amount spent on parliamentarians during the current and previous regime, a major chunk was spent during 2008 to 2013.

The parliamentarians spent Rs46.54 million for their medical treatment from public money during 2007-08 to 2012-13. Similarly during the 2013 to 2017, Rs17.85 million had been spent for MNA’s medical treatment.

Posted in The News

حکومت معذور افراد کی فلاح و بہبود کیلئے فوری طور پر ٹھوس اقدامات کرے

کوئٹہ: سی پی ڈی آئی کی جانب سے خصوصی افراد کے انتخابی و سیاسی حقوق کے حوالہ سے ایک سیمینار کا انعقاد کیا گیا جس میں متعلقہ شعبہ ہائے زندگی سے تعلق رکھنے والے افراد نے خصوصی افراد سے متعلق مسائل اور انکی جمہوری عمل میں شمولیت بارے تفصیل سے تبادلہ خیال کیا۔

سیمینار سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے سی پی ڈی آئی کے سینئر پروگرام منیجر راجہ شعیب اکبر نے معذور افراد کی جمہوری عمل میں شمولیت کے فروغ کیلئے موجودہ قانونی ڈھانچہ کی تفصیلات سے آگاہ کیا اوران افراد کو مرکزی دھارے میں شامل کرنے کیلئے ضروری قانونی و انتظامی اصلاحات بارے تبادلہ خیال کیا۔ محمد آصف صوبائی کوارڈینیٹر نے اس بات پر زور دیا کہ معذور افراد کے مسائل کوہمدردی جیسے عمومی رویے سے ہٹ کرحقوق و ذمہ داریوں کے نقطہ نظر سے دیکھنے کی ضرورت ہے۔

نعمت اللہ نے معذور افراد سے متعلق تنظیموں کی نمائندگی کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ معذور افراد کو معذوری سرٹیفکیٹ اورخصوصی قومی شناختی کارڈز کے حصول کیلئے سخت مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے۔

انہوں نے کہا کہ سیاسی تنظیموں اور حکومتی عہدیداران کو چاہیے کہ وہ معذورافراد کے نمائندوں کی فیصلہ سازی میں شرکت کی حوصلہ افزائی کریں تاکہ اس عمل میں انکی شمولیت یقینی بنائی جاسکے۔نادرا کے نمائندے عبدالمنان اورالیکشن کمیشن کے اہلکار اخلاق احمد نے بھی اس بات کا یقین دلایا کہ دونوں ادارے معذور افراد کی انتخابی عمل میں زیادہ اور مؤثر شرکت کیلئے پر عزم ہیں۔

ندیم خان نیشنل کونسل ممبر پی ٹی آئی نے کہا کہ اس وقت ایک بہت بڑا خلا ہے جسے فوری پر کرنے کی ضرورت ہے حکومت کو چاہیے کہ وہ معذور افراد کی فلاح و بہبود کیلئے فوری طور پر ٹھوس اقدامات کرے اور ان کی انتخابی عمل میں شمولیت کیلئے موجودہ قانونی ڈھانچے کو بہتر بنائے۔اس کاآغا زایسے بھی کیا جاسکتا ہے کہ تمام سیاسی پارٹیوں کومعذور افراد کیلئے الگ ونگ بنانے کا قانونی طور پر پابندبنایا جائے اور خصوصی افراد کیلئے عام نشستوں کے ساتھ ساتھ سپیشل نشستوں کا کوٹہ بھی مختص کیا جائے۔

انہوں نے مزید یقین دھانی کرائی کہ چونکہ انکی پارٹی حکومت کا حصہ ہیں اس لئے وہ اس اہم مسئلے کومتعلقہ حکام تک نہ صرف پہنچائیں گے بلکہ ون ونڈو آپریشن کے ذریعے سے خصوصی افراد کیلئے شناختی کارڈ کے حصول کو یقینی بنائیں گے۔

محترمہ سمیرا نے حکومت کی نمائندگی کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ حکومت خصوصی افراد کی حالت بہترکرنے کیلئے خاطر خواہ اقدامات کر رہی ہے اور وہ یہ سمجھتی ہے کہ خصوصی افراد کا مرکزی دھارے میں شامل ہونا انتہائی ضروری ہے اسلئے وہ اس اہم مسئلے کو وزیر اعلٰی تک بھی پہنچائیں گی۔

مہمان خصوصی ندیم خان نے اپنے خیالا ت کا اظہار کرتے ہوئے سیمینار کے انعقاد پر سی پی ڈی آئی کو خراج تحسین پیش کیا اور کہا کہ خصوصی افراد کو مرکزی دھارے میں شامل کرنے کیلئے کئی ایک اقدامات کیے جارہے ہیں تاہم وہ وعدہ کرتے ہیں کہ سیمینا رمیں اجاگر کیے گئے مسائل کے حل اور ان میں بہتری لانے کیلئے وہ وزیر اعلیٰ سے بات کریں گے۔

Published in Daily Azadi Quetta

Civil Society demands concrete steps for democratic inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

QUETTA: In continuation of Seminar held in April 2019 Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) organized a follow-up seminar here in Quetta on electoral and political rights of persons with disabilities. The stakeholders discussed in detail the issues surrounding disability and inclusion of PWDs.

Raja Shoaib Akbar, Senior Program Manager CPDI shared the status of legal structure supporting inclusion of PWDs and also discussed the legal and administrative reforms required for achieving mainstreaming of PWDs.

While welcoming the participants Mr.Mohammad Asif Provincial Coordinator CPDI stressed on the need to address the disability issues with rights and obligations approach instead of routine charity model.

Mr. Naimatullah representing the disability organizations stated that the disabled people were facing lot of difficulties in obtaining the disability certificate and special National Identity Card. He also stated that the political parties and the government functionaries must make sure participation of PWDS representatives in decision making so that their inclusion on the process is ensured. The NADRA representative Mr. Abdul Manan and Election Commission official Mr. Ikhlaq Ahmed gave their views on the matter and ensured that both institutions were determined to supporting the PWDs more effective participation in electoral process of Pakistan.

Mr. Nadeem Khan National Council Member of PTI said that there was great gap that required to be filled urgently. The government must take concrete steps for welfare of PWDs including and improve legal infrastructure to ensure participation of PWDs in electoral process. This could be initiated by making it mandatory for the political parties through law to establish and maintain disability wings and fix a reasonable percentage to PWDs in special quota seats and general seats as well, he further assured that being a coalition Partner he surely will bring the importance of the case infront of Health Minister and other relevant authorities so that one window operation can be started for obtaining special CNICs.

Mrs. Sumaira speaking on behalf of the government said government was doing its utmost to improve the plight of the PWDs and government was also aware of the need to strengthen efforts for mainstreaming of PWDs, she assured that she will highlight the issue and bring in the notice of CM.

While closing the seminar the chief guest Mr. Nadeem Khan appreciated the efforts of CPDI for organizing this seminar and said that a number of mainstreaming initiatives were under way. He promised that the issues raised in the seminar will not be forgotten and he would discuss them with the chief minister for further improvements.

Published on The Balochistan Express

Civil Society demands concrete steps for democratic inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

QUETTA: In continuation of Seminar held in April 2019 Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) organized a follow-up seminar here in Quetta on electoral and political rights of persons with disabilities. The stakeholders discussed in detail the issues surrounding disability and inclusion of PWDs.

Raja Shoaib Akbar, Senior Program Manager CPDI shared the status of legal structure supporting inclusion of PWDs and also discussed the legal and administrative reforms required for achieving mainstreaming of PWDs.

While welcoming the participants Mr.Mohammad Asif Provincial Coordinator CPDI stressed on the need to address the disability issues with rights and obligations approach instead of routine charity model.

Mr. Naimatullah representing the disability organizations stated that the disabled people were facing lot of difficulties in obtaining the disability certificate and special National Identity Card. He also stated that the political parties and the government functionaries must make sure participation of PWDS representatives in decision making so that their inclusion on the process is ensured. The NADRA representative Mr. Abdul Manan and Election Commission official Mr. Ikhlaq Ahmed gave their views on the matter and ensured that both institutions were determined to supporting the PWDs more effective participation in electoral process of Pakistan.

Mr. Nadeem Khan National Council Member of PTI said that there was great gap that required to be filled urgently. The government must take concrete steps for welfare of PWDs including and improve legal infrastructure to ensure participation of PWDs in electoral process. This could be initiated by making it mandatory for the political parties through law to establish and maintain disability wings and fix a reasonable percentage to PWDs in special quota seats and general seats as well, he further assured that being a coalition Partner he surely will bring the importance of the case infront of Health Minister and other relevant authorities so that one window operation can be started for obtaining special CNICs.

Mrs. Sumaira speaking on behalf of the government said government was doing its utmost to improve the plight of the PWDs and government was also aware of the need to strengthen efforts for mainstreaming of PWDs, she assured that she will highlight the issue and bring in the notice of CM.

While closing the seminar the chief guest Mr. Nadeem Khan appreciated the efforts of CPDI for organizing this seminar and said that a number of mainstreaming initiatives were under way. He promised that the issues raised in the seminar will not be forgotten and he would discuss them with the chief minister for further improvements.

Published on The Balochistan Point

کوئٹہ، سول سوسائٹی تنظیموں کی جانب سے خصوصی فراد کی جمہوری عمل میں شمولیت کیلئے ٹھوس اقدامات کا مطالبہ

کوئٹہ – ویب ڈیسک

سینٹر فا پیس اینڈ دولپمنٹ انیشیٹیو (سی پی ڈی آئی) کی جانب سے خصوصی افراد کے انتخابی و سیاسی حقوق کے حوالہ سے ایک سیمینار کا انعقاد کیا گیا جس میں متعلقہ شعبہ ہائے زندگی سے تعلق رکھنے والے افراد نے خصوصی افراد سے متعلق مسائل اور انکی جمہوری عمل میں شمولیت بارے تفصیل سے تبادلہ خیال کیا۔
سیمینار سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے سی پی ڈی آئی کے سینئر پروگرام منیجر راجہ شعیب اکبر نے معذور افراد کی جمہوری عمل میں شمولیت کے فروغ کیلئے موجودہ قانونی ڈھانچہ کی تفصیلات سے آگاہ کیا اوران افراد کو مرکزی دھارے میں شامل کرنے کیلئے ضروری قانونی و انتظامی اصلاحات بارے تبادلہ خیال کیا۔
محمد آصف صوبائی کوارڈینیٹر نے اس بات پر زور دیا کہ معذور افراد کے مسائل کوہمدردی جیسے عمومی رویے سے ہٹ کرحقوق و ذمہ داریوں کے نقطہ نظر سے دیکھنے کی ضرورت ہے۔

نعمت اللہ نے معذور افراد سے متعلق تنظیموں کی نمائندگی کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ معذور افراد کو معذوری سرٹیفکیٹ اورخصوصی قومی شناختی کارڈز کے حصول کیلئے سخت مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے۔انہوں نے کہا کہ سیاسی تنظیموں اور حکومتی عہدیداران کو چاہیے کہ وہ معذورافراد کے نمائندوں کی فیصلہ سازی میں شرکت کی حوصلہ افزائی کریں تاکہ اس عمل میں انکی شمولیت یقینی بنائی جاسکے۔نادرا کے نمائندے عبدالمنان اورالیکشن کمیشن کے اہلکار اخلاق احمد نے بھی اس بات کا یقین دلایا کہ دونوں ادارے معذور افراد کی انتخابی عمل میں زیادہ اور مؤثر شرکت کیلئے پر عزم ہیں۔

ندیم خان نیشنل کونسل ممبر پی ٹی آئی نے کہا کہ اس وقت ایک بہت بڑا خلا ہے جسے فوری پر کرنے کی ضرورت ہے حکومت کو چاہیے کہ وہ معذور افراد کی فلاح و بہبود کیلئے فوری طور پر ٹھوس اقدامات کرے اور ان کی انتخابی عمل میں شمولیت کیلئے موجودہ قانونی ڈھانچے کو بہتر بنائے۔اس کاآغا زایسے بھی کیا جاسکتا ہے کہ تمام سیاسی پارٹیوں کومعذور افراد کیلئے الگ ونگ بنانے کا قانونی طور پر پابندبنایا جائے اور خصوصی افراد کیلئے عام نشستوں کے ساتھ ساتھ سپیشل نشستوں کا کوٹہ بھی مختص کیا جائے۔انہوں نے مزید یقین دھانی کرائی کہ چونکہ انکی پارٹی حکومت کا حصہ ہیں اس لئے وہ اس اہم مسئلے کومتعلقہ حکام تک نہ صرف پہنچائیں گے بلکہ ون ونڈو آپریشن کے ذریعے سے خصوصی افراد کیلئے شناختی کارڈ کے حصول کو یقینی بنائیں گے.

محترمہ سمیرا نے حکومت کی نمائندگی کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ حکومت خصوصی افراد کی حالت بہترکرنے کیلئے خاطر خواہ اقدامات کر رہی ہے اور وہ یہ سمجھتی ہے کہ خصوصی افراد کا مرکزی دھارے میں شامل ہونا انتہائی ضروری ہے اسلئے وہ اس اہم مسئلے کو وزیر اعلٰی تک بھی پہنچائیں گی۔

مہمان خصوصی ندیم خان نے اپنے خیالا ت کا اظہار کرتے ہوئے سیمینار کے انعقاد پر سی پی ڈی آئی کو خراج تحسین پیش کیا اور کہا کہ خصوصی افراد کو مرکزی دھارے میں شامل کرنے کیلئے کئی ایک اقدامات کیے جارہے ہیں تاہم وہ وعدہ کرتے ہیں کہ سیمینا رمیں اجاگر کیے گئے مسائل کے حل اور ان میں بہتری لانے کیلئے وہ وزیر اعلیٰ سے بات کریں گے

Published on HaalHawal

CPDI lauds raise in KP’s health and education budgets

Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has welcomed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) budget 2019-20 for increasing development allocations of education, health, social protection, energy and environment. However, declining percentage share of these sectors in overall development budget is a cause of concern.

According to a press statement issued here on Sunday, the KP government has earmarked Rs 30,166.72 million education sector development budget for FY 2019-20 which is much higher than Rs 23,254.75 million allocated last year.

Interestingly, this increase in volume has not enhanced the percentage share of education sector in overall development budget, which stands at 9.5 percent for FY 2019-20 and was 13 percent last year. The education sector percentage share in overall development budget hovered between 10% and 26 percent since 2012-13; hence, the proposed allocation for FY 2019-20 has larger volume than last two years but is lowest in terms of percentage share of total development budget since 2012-13.

The statement further said a review of budget data of last seven years reveals that the education sector development allocations have seen many ups and downs. For instance, the allocation of Rs 34,411.66 million in 2013-14 was the highest; but was lowered in revised estimates of same year. Similarly, Rs 30,551.17 million (higher than the proposed budget for 2019-20) was earmarked in revised budget of year 2014-15. These statistics were shared by Raja Shoaib Akbar Senior Program Manager CPDI in a statement issued to media demanding consistency in government policy towards education.

The detail of health sector development allocations over the years is similar to education; for FY 2019-20 Rs 12,753.4 million has been allocated, larger than Rs 10,693.6 million allocated for last year and revised estimate of Rs 10,704.53 million in FY 2017-18. The analysis of development budget data since 2012-13, reveals that highest allocation for health development budget was Rs 16,362.56 million in 2016-17 that was revised to Rs 15,540.62 million at the end of the year. Percentage share of health in overall development budget during these seven years has fluctuated between 4 percent for 2019-20 and 10 percent for FY 2016-17. This situation demands uniformity in government policies towards health development, said Raja Shoaib.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has earmarked Rs 9,551.13 million for hydroelectricity projects which is the highest volume of development allocation for energy sector in the province since 2012-13.

The proposed allocation touches 3 percent mark as share of total development budget of the province. This percentage is only second to budget estimates and revised estimates of year 2014-15 in last seven years; when 4 percent and 3.3 percent share of total budget was earmarked for energy sector respectively.

It is high time that government puts its focus on cheaper ways of producing energy through hydroelectricity than thermal electricity. CPDI demands that a comprehensive roadmap should be devised, to decreased dependence on expensive and environmentally hazardous techniques like thermal electricity and switching to more water based energy projects, said Raja.

KP, being a spot of tourist attraction in Pakistan, holds a special significance regarding environment protection. Though there have been higher allocations in the past but the proposed Rs 5,913 million for 2019-20 is the largest development budget allocation since 2016-17. CPDI appreciates this allocation and hopes that the government shall make sure the proper execution of this budget throughout the year.

Published on Business Recorder

Has Islamabad really ignored health & education?

‘Federal budget ignores education and health’, wrote the Islamabad-based Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) yesterday, while highlighting the fall in budget allocations for these items over last year.

The CPDI is not unique in its criticism. Some Twitteratis also thought they had a field day yesterday by flagging the same, whereas various farmers’ organisations, including Kissan Board Pakistan, said the federal budget has neglected the agriculture sector. Perhaps, all these organisations never got the memo of the 18th constitutional amendment.

The only role that the centre now has in education, health, farming, and others is that of coordination; the responsibility of service delivery rests with the provinces. For this, Islamabad has a few options. Strengthen the Council of Common Interest and the Ministry of Interprovincial Coordination; create new platforms for coordination; or efficiently use the leftover machinery of the now-devolved subjects for coordination in their respective domains.

Many have been criticising this government and its predecessor to be still maintaining about 41 to 60 divisions (depending on whose soundbite you want to believe). This is seen as “federal encroachment of provincial functions”, which supposedly eats into Islamabad’s tight fiscal space.

News flash: there is no publicly available study which shows that these “extra divisions” should be completely disbanded by the centre for want for utility. Nor there are studies which show that holding these “extra divisions” in the centre is indeed a material expenditure responsible for Islamabad’s tight budget constraints. This research gap needs to be addressed; so need be the research gap in our collective understanding of an efficient means of inter-governmental coordination.

The federal government would do well to fix the cogs of inter-governmental coordination, and also create awareness so the public starts knocking on provincial doors for the provision of most public services. Media’s role in bridging this gap is equally paramount.

Published on Business Recorder

Health of the budget

Contrary to its claims, the Punjab government has reduced the health budget by Rs5 billion, which is a worrying concern. In its recently announced annual budget, for the fiscal year 2019-20, the Punjab government allocated Rs279 billion for health sector. While the government claimed that the allocation budget was up by 20 percent from the current fiscal year (which ends June 30), the fact is that the caretaker government had allocated Rs284 bn for health.

To put it in other words, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led provincial government has reduced the health budget by Rs5 bn. Moreover, some important healthcare programmes seem to have been overlooked completely.

The highlights of the health budget include setting up a children’s hospital in Bahawalpur. Besides, Rs3.5 bn has been assigned for revamping the Tehsil Headquarter (THQ) and District Headquarter (DHQ) hospitals across the province. Rs1.5 bn has been allocated for provision of free medicines to patients of hepatitis; at least eight hospitals are being set up in Layyah, Mianwali, Lahore, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi, Dera Ghazi Khan, and Multan; and Rs12 bn is to go to free drugs and healthcare services. The Sehat Card programme is also to be expanded to 36 districts of Punjab, with an allocated budget of Rs2 bn.

The Punjab government manages a large number of health related facilities, be it teaching, research or tertiary. There are six universities, 11 colleges, 46 tertiary health facilities, 45 nursing colleges/schools, and numerous other institutions for allied services. As far as the primary and secondary healthcare facilities are concerned, Punjab boasts 32 District Headquarter Hospitals, 126 Tehsil Headquarter Hospitals, 316 Rural Health Centres (RHCs) and 2,506 Basic Health Units.

“Until recently, most of these facilities were poorly funded and managed, and lacked adequate staff and facilities,” says Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, a health expert and the founder director of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI).

Ali also speaks of presenting a Shadow Development Budget for the Punjab’s health sector. “Unfortunately, the FY2019-20’s health budget doesn’t offer much to improve the current health facilities,” he adds.

It is pertinent to mention here that in its manifesto for 2018-23, the PTI had promised to “ensure universal health coverage and enhance the focus on primary healthcare, while upgrading secondary and tertiary facilities; to upscale the Sehat Insaf Card Programme across Pakistan; double the size of the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) programme; increase the number of 24/7 BHUs and RHCs, equipped with basic package of services; establish training institutes for nurses and paramedical staff nationwide; upgrade secondary care facilities; and build state-of-the-art hospitals in major urban centres.”

For Ali, “Factually, the first health budget is not a true reflection of the promises made by the PTI in its manifesto. With the allocation of Rs3.5 billion a large number of primary and secondary health facilities would remain under-resourced.

“It is important to allocate sufficient budget to set up more facilities across the regions, to further improve the quality of services and management in existing facilities, and to lessen the burden at the tertiary level which is not only concentrated in large cities but also inaccessible for the poor or those based in remote areas.”

Apart from the regular facilities, the Punjab government is managing a number of disease prevention programmes aimed at controlling different types of ailments such as Hepatitis, AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), Integrated Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (IRMNCH), and the Nutrition, Malaria, Immunisation and Infection Control Program.

“Preventive healthcare strategies must be a priority area for any government,” says Dr Ashraf Nizami, Central President, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), “because the schemes are designed to avert any incidence of diseases at the primary level.

“Reduction in health budget is a matter of concern,” he declares.

The government has allocated Rs40 bn for setting up new hospitals and upgrading the Children’s Hospital, Lahore, to the status of a medical university. The PMA appreciates the announcement of establishing new hospitals that are among the long-awaited projects, but Dr Nizami says the allocated funds for the new hospitals are insufficient. “This means that the government has decided not to complete these in one year’s time. Secondly, no amount is allocated to enhancing the capacity of the existing six medical public universities.

“The budget for purchasing medicines has also been ignored by the government,” he adds. “Likewise for the strength of nurses and paramedical staff at the district level. There is disappointment when you look at the paltry earmarking in the budget for scientific research and development programmes of healthcare.”

Health experts bracket the issue of safe drinking water supply with the health sector, as it causes various diseases some of which can also cause an epidemic situation. The Punjab government has allocated Rs8 bn for supply of clean drinking water, and Rs8.1 bn for rehabilitation of 662 dysfunctional rural water supply schemes. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali considers it an inadequate amount.

According to the data provided by the CPDI, one of the major health challenges continues to be the large percentage of births that are not attended by skilled workers. Lack of maternity services and child healthcare units at the primary level is the main cause of the high rate of maternal and child mortality in Pakistan. The new budget offers nothing to support such programmes.

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by nations to end poverty, protect our planet, and to ensure that people enjoy peace and prosperity. Of the 17 agreed goals, Goal 3 concerns good health and well-being. The government of Pakistan was among the first few countries to adopt the SDGs as their national goals.

An expert on SDGs, and the Chief Executive of Awaz Centre for Development Services (CDS) Zia Ur Rehman says that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010, under the international commitments, 99 indicators of the SDGs shall be implemented by the provincial government. “Some of the major health targets for the SDG 3 include reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, by the year 2030; ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age; with all countries aiming to reduce the neo-natal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortalities to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births; combating AIDS, TB, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases as well as water-borne diseases like hepatitis, and other communicable diseases; reducing by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment; promoting mental health and well-being; giving access to quality, essential health-care services and safe, effective, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

The allocation of budget and related policy should be a true reflection of the commitments made by the government at national and international levels, Rehman adds. “It is evident that the current health budget like previous ones is opposite to the roadmap offered on ‘National Priority Targets’ in 2016, to implement the Goal 3.”

Published in the News on Sunday