Punjab govt decides to shut Danish Schools

LAHORE:07 September: The newly-elected PTI-led Punjab government decided to scrap the PML-N’s flagship education sector project of Danish School System and divert the resources to education and health projects conceived by the PTI. This was decided at the maiden meeting of the Strategic Committee on Annual Development Plan (ADP) held on Thursday chaired by Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht. Although all the ministers were directed to attend the meeting, only Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, Higher Education Minister Yasir Hamayun and School Education Minister Murad Rass attended the meeting. The Planning and Development (P&D) Board chairman, finance secretary and other officials were also present on the occasion. The meeting kept its focus on the school and education sector issues, besides, curtailing and stopping the Communication and Works (C&W) development schemes and diverting the resources to the housing sector. However, it was not discussed in detail due to the absence of housing minister. According to officials attending the meeting, the finance minister strongly opposed the Danish Schools. He was supported by the Minister of School Education Murad Ross. The finance minister – who hails from southern Punjab, while Danish Schools too were established in the same region – suggested alternate use of the existing Danish Schools buildings besides stopping the infrastructure development of new schools in Punjab. The meeting unanimously agreed to change the name of Danish School and to send the enrolled students to other public sector institutions of the province. The finance minister suggested that the resources generated by stopping these projects could be used for improving the quality of education and provision of missing facilities in the existing schools of the province. Furthermore, the school education minister expressed his strong reservations and objected to the international tours programme in which previously the position holders and brilliant students were sent to the top universities of the world for exposure. He suggested the funds saved from such programmes would be spent on improving the quality of education. Dr Yasmin pointed out duplication in the health sector schemes and directed those related to the hepatitis control programme should be eliminated, asking both the P&D chairman and the finance secretary to allocate resources for the Insaf Card. The finance secretary said the people recruited by the previous government in the health sector could not be sent home in one go, but the minister asked him come up with a solution. Dr Yasmin also asked for making of PC-I for mother and child health programmes and suggested that every department should appoint a person with every minister for the PC-I preparation in the light of the suggestions and schemes of the ministers. She believed that this would share the burden of the P&D officials and ensure timely completion of the budget too. According to an official communiqué released by the finance minister, the Strategic Committee on ADP’s meeting was focused on proposals and priorities of the new provincial government prior to the budget preparation. The finance secretary apprised the meeting about the financial condition of the province, budget estimates, revenue rates and details of expenditures, whereas the P&D chairman briefed the participants on the projects of previous government and the planning to prepare ADP for the fiscal year 2018-19. The finance secretary informed the meeting that provincial governments had set the targets of revenue collection according to the targets of the federal government. He said if the FBR failed to achieve its fixed targets then the provincial governments' budget is also affected. The FBR collected 20 percent less tax revenue from its fixed target due to which the provincial government is facing difficulties in preparation of its budget, he added. Moreover, social sector expenditures particularly unnecessary jobs in the Health Department and infrastructure projects are also the cause of the increase in expenses, he said. The committee members expressed concern over construction projects of the previous government, unlawful employment and duplication schemes and stressed upon the provision of quality education instead of road construction, issuance of health cards and elimination of unnecessary projects. Hashim Bakht appealed to the committee to give proposals in the given time for the ADP formulation and directed both the Finance Department and the P&D to prepare the framework of development planning according to the mandate of the new government and suggestions of the committee and prepare an action plan to include ongoing schemes of the districts in the development plan. The finance minister said the next budget would be a representative budget of the whole province rather than being Lahore-centric.The news.

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