Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Priorities for a Pakistani Prime Minister

August 15, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

If I were the Prime minister of Pakistan I shall declare Healthcare and Education free for all citizens of Pakistan. I shall build as many educational buildings as would be needed to cater for all the students from primary to the highest faculty level in the country. Even it means slashing funds from other departments and army, I shall not hesitate to take this most urgent and overdue decision.

There will be a mandatory education tax on every transaction in the country. There will be an additional tax on wealth and incomes of the people. Every utility bill will charge a separate education and literacy tax that would go directly to the accounts of the respective Independent school districts (ISDs).

The provincial administrations would charge this tax in their provinces that would be exclusively utilized on education at all levels which means from the primary to the university levels.

The country would be divided into independent district schools (not the administrative districts) that would run their own schooling and college system of education. The colleges and universities’ administration would be separate from these ISDs.

Similarly the healthcare, no matter how costly, will be free for every citizen in the country. For government hospitals every citizen would be issued a health insurance card which means that health expenses would be covered by the government insurance network. Those who would like to go to the private hospitals, the private insurance companies would be allowed to insure the people to cover a part or whole cost on the treatment.

For healthcare there would be another health tax that would be levied along with the education tax on every business transaction, on utility bills and on incomes. More hospitals would be built that would cater to the growing number of patients.

The system of maintaining all the details from issuance a medication to the discharge of patient would be computerized and made immaculate. Every detail would be entered so that no mismanaging or mal-practices take place.

The agricultural tax would be charged and the income thereof would be spent on providing food to the indigent segments of society. A meticulous, computerized and well documented system would be put in place to obviate misuse of funds in doling out financial or food support to the needy and deserving.

The education would be compulsory up to the secondary or senior school level. If a student would fall out, the responsibility would devolve on the parents and guardians for not sending him to the school. The drop-out from the schools would have to be watched. As an alternative, they would have to attend the vocational and technical skills of various categories from a mason to an electric technician so on so, as make amends for his lack of normal academic education.

Those who excel and would be brightest in results and academic performance would be encouraged and motivated to join post-doctorate and post-graduate research institutions in various fields. These research scholars and academics would receive all benefits and faculties from the government to produce results for inventions and promote scientific knowledge. The education from higher secondary to masters and for doctorates and research would be voluntary. But still the cost would be borne by the government.

With the creation of research institutions and universities within Pakistan, the need and urge for going abroad for such research oriented education would diminish and our scholars and brilliant minds would not suffer from deprivation and dependence upon the foreign centers of excellence for admissions.

The plans and models of building that we have in Pakistan are highly faulty, old fashioned and insecure and suffer from acute shortage and absence of facilities and decorum that we find in western countries. We shall have to rebuild and remodel our institutions from elementary, junior to senior high school levels so that the students are not exposed while sitting in class rooms and can be accessed by outsiders.

The pattern of the management of administering these institutions can be copied from the USA and other west European countries. The school buildings from elementary level down below to KG levels are like citadels in United States: neatly maintained with police presence inside and a well protected and neatly lined up parking areas. The students are provided lunch in schools and that takes care of their proteins and wholesome food needs.

I would not mind managing the hospitals and health systems in Pakistan on the patterns of the developed countries. In health sector the prototypes of hospital buildings and entire network from admission to the treatment and dispensation of related facilities can be imbibed and implemented in Pakistan. In America for instance, there is an element of accountability in every sector in the health domain.

The medicines and drugs that are provided by the USA hospital pharmacies are given in the bottles that are of the same sizes and shapes throughout the country. All information from the names of doctors to the patients and medicine’ name and use are given on the label. This system eliminates the chances of spurious or stolen drugs or the staff to sell the drugs in the black market.

The education and the healthcare systems in the United States despite their drawbacks are marvelous. If a portion of that can en implemented in Pakistan, the health of the citizens would undergo a revolutionary healthy change.

All schools and colleges would be well stocked with books, computers, and other necessary inputs that would be helpful in the learning and getting fast information.
The monster of ghost schools would be buried forever by locating such institutions and imposing heavy fines and sending the perpetrators of such crime to jail for longer terms.

All the text books would be first supplied by the publishers to the school libraries and handed over to students at a reasonable cost. In this entire free education system, the students will pay for the books on subsidized rates.

To study the educational systems in developed countries and to understand the designs of the buildings and look into other facilities such as school buses etc, a group of experts in their respective fields would be sent for instance to United States and UK. A commission of reputed academics and educational scholars would be instituted to submit implementation of all these measures within six months.

The third urgent reform that I would immediately undertake is the control of the fast growing population. Pakistan’s population in 1971 when East Pakistan seceded was 70 million. Barely in 40 years, it is reaching 190 million mark.

The growth of population at such a rapid rate renders the development plans ineffective and futile. By the time the plan matures there are countless more individuals with needs for food, clothing, housings, medicare, water, electricity and other social benefits and civic facilities.

Pakistan number’s one problem like other poor and developing countries is the burgening population that makes redundant every scheme and efforts for economic prosperity and social uplift of the society. Pakistan’s resources are insufficient and are not expanding in proportion to the growing population. Hence these prolonged power outrages and civic and social mess.

A single or two children restriction will have to be imposed in Pakistan to put a stop to the galloping population pushing Pakistan into further poverty and more societal chaos. We should, at all costs check and restrain the exploding population and correspondingly develop and whip up more resources by expanding industrial and agricultural sectors without further loss of time.

It is good for the health of Pakistan’s economy and that of its citizens if one loaf of bread is available for one person than one for four or more persons.

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