Islamabad: What could be termed as the first and the worst setback of devolution is the fact that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would lose $300 million loan approved by the World Bank (WB) to support its various programmes for the next five years.
The $300 million equivalent credit for the tertiary education support project was supposed to finance the government’s tertiary education development programme that would leverage an estimated investment of approximately Rs1.7 billion in additional resources from the government.
According to sources, the loan deal would automatically come to an end after the devolution of the HEC because of some legal implications. “There is a clause in the agreement between the WB and HEC that any change in the legal status of the HEC would end the agreement at once,” said HEC Executive Director Dr. Sohail Naqvi.
The loan that has been committed by the WB is called the International Development Association (IDA), which is given to the poorest and most sought after by many developing countries. For the tertiary education project, 110 million dollars of the IDA credit would carry a 0.75 per cent service charge fee, maximum commitment charges at 0.5 per cent, a 10-year grace period, and maturity of 35 years.
It is not for the first time that the HEC has been granted a loan by the WB, but a year ago the World Bank has given a soft loan of $100 million to the Government of Pakistan for the progress of higher education sector. It is pertinent to mention here that the HEC met the criteria set by the World Bank, which in its report prepared by Shahid Kardar, termed the performance of the HEC ‘highly satisfactory’.
Keeping in view the utilisation of money of previous loan, the WB has once again granted the loan with conditions to meet various targets that mainly include increase in the number of scholarships, increase in the number of publications, easy accessibility to the academic institutions, improvement in quality of education and also an increase in the number of tenure track teachers.
However, according to some experts, the decision regarding the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has apparently been taken to cut off the huge amount of Rs30 billion from the upcoming budget, as the provincial governments would be asked to meet the expenditures of higher education sector from the money they would get through the NFC.
According to experts, the HEC could have been saved from devolution by utilising the provisions given under the Federal Legislative List (FLL) Part 2, however; it has been devolved despite severe criticism to shed the heavy amount that the federal government has to allocate for the HEC budget.
“It was what actually the government wanted to do. First, they tried to do it by slashing its budget though we managed to survive and now they have chosen the way of devolution,” said and insider requesting anonymity.
The source, however, believed that the provincial governments were having some strong misconceptions regarding the HEC budget. “The provincial governments are probably thinking that they would get the HEC budget and also the amount of the WB loan in addition to the amount they would get through the NFC. In reality, they would be getting nothing but just the NFC money,” a source revealed.
“Yes, I believe that budget was another issue. They are considering the amount allocated for the HEC every year but they are not aware of the massive development that takes place in the higher education sector every year. They need to realise that the budget of the HEC is not expenditure but an investment,” said Dr. Sohail Naqvi.