‘Reluctance’ to spend on education, Bangladesh is below 33 least developed countries

Bangladesh is on the way to transition from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). At the same time, the government is desperate to build the foundation for the implementation of Smart Bangladesh. For which smart and skilled human resources are required. However, among the 38 LDC countries, the country with 50 million students is at the bottom in terms of allocation for education as a proportion of GDP.

Bangladesh is at number three from the bottom of the list, which economists and educationists believe can become a major obstacle in the expansion of education and creation of skilled manpower in the country.

This time, it is a matter of seeing how much the government will implement by giving more allocation to the number of rupees. If it does not implement, then it should be understood that the radish has been hung with more allocation. – Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director of CPD.

In the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, on June 6, the Finance Minister proposed to allocate a total of Tk 94,710 crore to the education sector, which is 11.88 percent of the total budget. In the current (2023-24) fiscal year, 7.42 percent more allocation than the budget in the education sector has been proposed this time. This time the proposed budget for education has increased by 6 thousand 547 crores.

Educationists say that the budget is evaluated based on how the education allocation is in proportion to the GDP. According to international standards, at least 6 percent of GDP should be allocated to education. The same advice comes from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

According to research institute Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), only 1.69 percent of GDP is allocated to education in the proposed budget, which is less than the 2023-24 fiscal year. In the fiscal year 2023-24, the allocation was 1.76 percent of GDP. Before that, in the fiscal year 2022-23, the allocation to this sector was 1.83 percent of the GDP and in the fiscal year 2021-22, it was 2.08 percent. That is, the government is gradually reducing the allocation to education in proportion to GDP.

Education allocation is not an expenditure, it is an investment. We can’t make that investment right. I will ask to increase the budget in primary and technical education rather than higher education. – Educationist Prof. Dr. Abdul Mannan

According to CPD’s analysis, 33 of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) allocated at least 2 percent of their budgets as a proportion of GDP to education from 2016-2023. The African countries of Djibouti, Senegal and the independent island nation of Samoa in the South Pacific spend more on education as a proportion of GDP than Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has never spent 2 percent of GDP on education in the last 10 years. On the contrary, at the end of the year, spending is less than what is allocated in the budget. Many times education projects are stopped due to lack of funds. Many projects are shelved for years without implementation. That is, extreme frugality is shown in the expenditure in the education sector.

Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, told Jago News, “Education has entered the top five sectors of the budget this time. It’s very good. But the point is that these two sectors have less allocation in other years. However, implementation lags behind. This time, it is a matter of seeing how much the government will implement by giving more allocation to the number of rupees. If not implemented, it should be understood that the radish has been hung with more allocation.

  • More
    There is nothing ‘new’ in the budget for the people of Chittagong
    Allocation increased in agriculture, no good news for farmers
    Housing sector under the pressure of additional taxes

Rasheda K Chowdhury, advisor to the former caretaker government and executive director of Mass Literacy Abhiyan, is also disappointed regarding the implementation of the education budget. He said, ‘I have not seen any direction in the proposed budget regarding increasing efficiency and capacity in using the budget. But it is also necessary to give. I think there is a need for research on why even the allocation of the education sector is not being spent.

The former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) thinks that it is not possible to spend the education budget due to bureaucratic complications. Abdul Mannan. He told Jago News, ‘What is allocated for education, even the money that is allocated, years pass. This is clearly a bureaucratic complication. Political will is needed to overcome this situation.

Even if there is an allocation, there is no ‘ability’ in the cost!
In the current (2023-24) financial year, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education has allocated Tk 34 thousand 722 crores. The revised budget of this ministry is Tk 30 thousand 482 crores. That is, 4 thousand 240 crores have decreased in the revised budget. Similarly, 8,668 crores in secondary and higher education department and 618 crores in technical and madrasa education department have been reduced in the revised budget.

In the financial year 2023-24, 14 thousand 85 crores have been allocated to 65 projects for the development of secondary and higher education. However, more than half of the money is returned. In the financial year 2022-23, the situation was the same in this department. That time 13 thousand 873 crore taka was allocated but only 5 thousand 153 crore taka was spent. The remaining 8 thousand 720 crore rupees are returned. The Planning Commission said that even though the government gives good allocations to this sector every year, as it is not spent, in the end, a large part of the money is returned.

If asked to know, Secretary Abul Kashem of the Ministry of Planning, Implementation, Inspection and Evaluation Department (IMED). Mohiuddin told Jago News, ‘The implementation of education projects is quite low, that’s right. Due to lack of funding, the completion of the project is often delayed. There is some trouble there (in education).’

I have not seen any direction in the proposed budget regarding efficiency and capacity building in using the budget. But it is also necessary to give. I think research is needed on why even the education sector allocation is not being spent.- Rasheda K Chowdhury

Economist Dr. Executive Director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) has the same opinion. Ahsan H Mansoor also. He told Jago News, ‘There is no manpower capable of implementing the project in the education sector. Projects in this sector require skilled manpower or suitable engineers. Again, due to irregularities in shopping in this place, there are more incidents of money being stuck.’

Old ‘frustration’ over education budget
Rasheda K Chowdhury also said that she was ‘gasping’ from being disappointed with the budget in the education sector. He said, ‘In this year’s budget, the allocation for the education sector was not at all as expected. We are panting to say disappointed, disappointed again and again. The government’s goodwill towards education can be seen in the budget. But there is not enough allocation to implement it. It is unwelcome and unfortunate.’

Rasheda K Chowdhury said, “Yes, we are basically moving towards the developed world” regarding the non-increase in allocation to GDP ratio in education even during the transition of LDC. But in this regard (budget allocation) we are lagging behind many developing countries. South Asia is also far behind. It is not desirable at all. We do not expect that.’

Academician Professor Dr. Abdul Mannan. Former Vice Chancellor of Chittagong University. Served as Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC). Professor Abdul Mannan also thinks that the allocation in education is ‘not enough’.

He said, ‘No country in Asia and Africa has such a low allocation in education like Bangladesh. Allocations are higher in other countries. This allocation of education is not enough. But we have to try to increase as much as possible. Education allocation is not an expenditure, it is an investment. We can’t make that investment right. I would ask to increase the budget for primary and technical education rather than higher education.’

Professor Mohammad Abu Yusuf of Development Studies Department of Dhaka University (DU) researched the education budget. Regarding the budget allocation for the proposed financial year, he told Jago News, ‘The allocation may have increased slightly in terms of money. But despite the demand for allocation of 20 percent of the national budget to the education sector, it has not been fulfilled. Again most of the development expenditure is spent on infrastructure. Most of the operating expenses are spent on salaries and allowances. All in all, this year’s education budget did not reflect the expectations.