Financing the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from government spending on the MDGs | Millennium Development Goals

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Spending by governments is falling short of what is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by one-third
  RESEARCH REPORT FINANCING THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS Lessons from government spending on the MDGs 2015 REPORT Government spending is falling one-third short of MDG needs  –   and the SDGs will require at least US$1.5 trillion extra a year. Based on lessons from tracking country budgets, this report recommends how the SDGs should be financed: by doubling tax revenue, through radically overhauling global tax rules; doubling concessional development cooperation, and improving its allocation and effectiveness; and raising US$500 billion in innovative public financing. In addition, all spending must be dramatically reoriented to fight inequality, and needs to be much more transparent and accountable to the world’s citizens. Development Finance International (DFI) and Oxfam   have collaborated on this Government Spending Watch report to share research results and contribute to public debate on public financing for development, financing the SDGs, and the Financing for Development processes. The report does not necessarily reflect Oxfam or DFI policy positions. The views expressed are those of the authors.     2 Financing the Sustainable Development Goals : Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This report was written by Matthew Martin and Jo Walker. The research and data team who produce the GSW data consists of Maria Holloway, Lance Karani, Jeannette Laouadi, David Waddock and Jo Walker. Special thanks go to David Waddock for acting as interim data team lead. Rebecca Simson and Paolo de Renzio played a key role in the research underlying Section 5. Earlier data and research contributions, without which GSW would not be possible, were made by Richard Watts, Alison Johnson, Katerina Kyrili and Hannah Bargawi. Key contributions to the compilation and interpretation of the data were made by budget officials in the 66 countries for which GSW has compiled data  –  too many to mention individually. Oxfam provided valuable comments and input, including from Paul O’Brien, Max Lawson, Greg Adams, Ceri Averill and Claire Godfrey. Finally, DFI and Oxfam are most grateful to the Global Campaign for Education, the International Budget Partnership, Save the Children International, UNESCO, UN Women and WaterAid, who have commissioned work using GSW data during 2013  – 15, which helps us to continue to develop and deepen our analysis and understanding of trends in government spending.   3 Financing the Sustainable Development Goals : Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY THE AIM OF THIS REPORT AND ITS DATA  Six months remain until the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  –  the framework used to measure global development progress since 2000. Government spending is a key way for countries to achieve the MDGs. Yet astonishingly, throughout the MDG period, the international community has conducted no comprehensive monitoring or analysis of spending. Since 2009, Development Finance International (DFI) has compiled the latest data on MDG spending through investigative data gathering with government officials across seven key sectors: agriculture and food, education, environment, health, social protection, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and women’s rights. These data have been published in reports and on the Government Spending Watch website (, and have helped to increase spending levels and transparency. The 2015 Government Spending Watch (GSW) report aims to take stock of progress on MDG spending (and less desirable spending on debt and defence) as the world moves towards the finish line for the MDGs. However, 2015 is also the year when the international community will agree a new set of more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2016  – 30, and will decide how financing for development (FfD) should fund them. This report aims to influence these decisions, by: Analysing whether current spending trends will suffice to achieve the SDGs; Examining how spending has been funded since 2008, and what needs to change in FfD; Identifying what needs to be done to ensure that government spending combats inequality; and Assessing how ready countries (and the international community) are to track SDG spending, and to hold governments and funders accountable for its levels and results.   MDG AND SDG SPENDING Section 2 of this report looks at recent spending on the MDGs and the implications for potential spending on the SDGs. It demonstrates that government spending in developing countries rose rapidly in 2012  – 14, but revenues did not. This has led to growing deficits, resulting in sharp increases in debt service. As a result, debt service is ‘ crowding out ’  MDG spending in 21 of 66 countries, and MDG spending has not risen to the same degree as overall government spending because debt service has absorbed 40% of the extra spending, and infrastructure 35%  –  only 25% of additional finance has been allocated to MDG sectors. In terms of specific sectors, based on 2014 data, what is the country spending performance and what implications does this have for spending on the SDGs? Agriculture:  Only 14  – 16% of countries are meeting financial targets, and average spending is only halfway to the target and has fallen since 2012. The SDGs for zero hunger and sustainable agriculture will require doubled spending, and tracking of what is anti-hunger and sustainable. Education:  Only 19  – 22% of countries are meeting Education For All (EFA) targets, though average spending is 80% of the target and most countries are increasing spending levels.   4 Financing the Sustainable Development Goals : Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs   Education is the sector closest to reaching its MDG targets, but the SDGs ’  lifelong high-quality learning agenda will require US$161 billion more. Environment: This sector has no MDG financial targets and received less than 1% of spending, and the average is falling.   The environment and climate change SDGs require US$261 billion more a year, and there is an urgent need to set targets and ensure that all spending is ‘ sustainability-compliant ’ . Health: No African country is meeting its targets, though 40% of all countries are meeting World Health Organization (WHO) per capita spending targets. Average spending is only half the targeted level, and recent trends have been mixed. Universal free healthcare will require an increase of US$50  – 80 billion, and a major effort is needed to monitor spending split by disease and beneficiary group. Social protection: Only Timor Leste meets any of the international finance targets on social protection: across all countries the average spending is less than 1% of GDP  –  though most countries have increased spending in recent years.   Higher   spending will be vital to target zero extreme poverty, full employment and decent work, and reduced inequality: even a cash transfer programme would cost US$65  – 90 billion extra a year. It will also be vital to invest in capacity to disaggregate social protection spending by target and beneficiary. WASH: Only 10% of countries are meeting targets, spending averages less than 1% of GDP and a majority of countries are reducing spending as a percentage of GDP. Reaching universal access to WASH will require US$24 billion, plus more to ensure sustainable water management, and much better monitoring of spending for both purposes. Overall, countries should be spending close to 60% of their budgets on the MDGs, but current allocations are only 38% and falling. Total additional public spending needs for the SDGs (including the sectors above as well as access to modern energy and infrastructure) could be as high as US$1.5 trillion a year. New sectors will also pose extra challenges for tracking spending, as much of it will be implemented by state-owned enterprises or will use complex finance mechanisms such as public-private partnerships (PPPs). FINANCING THE SDGs Section 3 analyses how the MDGs have been financed. It finds that government revenue  currently funds 77% of spending, which has been more stable, aligned with government priorities, balanced between investment and recurrent and easy to implement than donor-funded spending. The SDGs therefore require a massive step up in domestic resource mobilisation, which requires: Major changes in international tax rules and practices to give fair treatment to developing countries, including in current G20/OECD tax initiatives, by allocating taxation rights primarily to source countries of raw materials, redesigning tax treaties and sharply reducing tax exemptions; Major reinforcement of developing country capacity to receive, analyse, audit and supply tax information, prosecute evaders and renegotiate contracts and agreements with corporations; Agreement on inclusive global governance of cooperation in tax matters, via the FfD process and a reinforced UN Tax Committee, to give developing countries equal decision-making power. Whatever the increase in government revenue, it will not suffice to fund all the SDGs. Concessional international public finance  will still be vital. We need to mobilise US$1 trillion extra a year from:
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