What is this budget line thing anyway?

One of the commitments monitored on WASHwatch is – have governments established a separate budget line for sanitation and have they committed enough funds to it.

This commitment is arguably the lynchpin of all existing commitments to prioritise water and sanitation, as demonstrated by its repeated inclusion in international declarations (all available under shared files in sidebar).

–          Ministers who signed the 2008 eThekwini Declaration explicitly pledged to “create separate budget lines for sanitation and hygiene in their countries and to commit at least 0.5% of GDP”.

–          Similarly, the 2008 Delhi Sacosan Declaration lays out a roadmap to 2015 MDG completion with 1-2% of the Government’s annual budget to be allocated to sanitation.

–          At the 4th annual SACOSAN Colombo Declaration, Ministers explicitly agreed “to establish specific public sector budget allocations for sanitation and hygiene programs” .

The shift in phrasing from ‘separate budget line’ to ‘specific public sector budget allocation’ is significant. Sanitation and hygiene spending is often divided up between different ministries, making it complicated to track.

For example, a single national budget might include hygiene spending in the Ministry of Education budget, sanitation spending in the Ministry of Water budget and both sanitation and hygiene spending through the Ministry of Health.

Having sanitation and hygiene under the jurisdiction of multiple ministries is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as there is a clear institutional mechanism for coordination and oversight.

The essence of the ‘single budget line’ commitment is transparency, and this can equally be achieved by identifying sanitation, water and hygiene spending, separately and comprehensively, wherever they appear in the budget. These separate budget headings can then be easily aggregated together to give totals for sanitation, hygiene and water.

Unfortunately, our user survey revealed that of all the commitments monitored on WASHwatch, this was the most difficult. And this undermines the essence of transparency:

–          To properly analyse the effectiveness of government spending on sanitation and hygiene…

–          To calculate realistic projections of the spending that would be necessary to achieve universal access…

–          To compare the prioritisation that is being accorded to sanitation across time and across regions…

–          To lookout for corruption…

…We have to know what is currently being spent! 


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