THE NEWLY installed government in Pakistan has suggested a set of measures particularly withdrawal of 75 per cent rebate already being offered to academicians and researchers, which would certainly putt the future of quality education at stake. During the last couple of years, the authorities continuous negative approach towards higher and quality education has established the fact that this important sector has failed to find itself amongst the less important priorities of the decision makers, which is surely enough for the stakeholders to worry about. This is hardly to understand that on one hand the government continues to emphasize the importance of education and research in our universities while on the other side it, through discouraging measures, squeezes the space for the researchers and academicians to make progress with financial satisfaction. These budgetary suggestions, if passed by the parliament, would not only impact the research environment in the local universities but also push the already working researchers to seek opportunities to go abroad for better future. Furthermore, it would not encourage the overseas Pakistanis to invest on research projects in the country. The tax incentives, the government has suggested to withdraw, were in fact given a decade ago with an aim to promote quality of teaching and research in Pakistan. And of course, it helped in attracting quite a few Pakistani academicians living abroad to return to Pakistan and serve various institutions in the country with dedication and distinction as they were able to make a reasonable living. The hardest hit will be those teachers working in private institutions having short-term contracts with no benefits of pension and other perks as a huge chunk of their salaries will be consumed in taxation. This would certainly lead to restart of brain drain, which the Higher Education Commission had been making efforts to stop before the governments attempts to clip its wings. It is ironical to mention here that the total revenue the government is estimated to generate from the removal of this subsidy is 0.12 per cent (Rs 3 billion) of the total revenue of Rs 2,598 billion, while its subsequent negative impact will be colossal. It needs no argument that higher and quality education is key to progress in all fields especially of science and technology of a nation. However, this sector has been put on the backburner in Pakistan, for which we all have to pay a heavy price. The government needs to continue with the rebate system at least for the productive scientists, fresh public sector universities PhD holders. While those from the non-teaching category and getting privileges in the shadow of actual scientists and professors need to be discouraged as this could imperil the future of quality education in the country.
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