New ‘Government Spending Watch’ data and report available – Lessons from the MDGs (1/4)

In the run-up to the adoption of the Global Goals For Sustainable Development, due to be endorsed on 25th of September, this series of guest blogs investigates the financing situation for water, sanitation and hygiene and asks how ambitious global WASH goals can be achieved. This first blog provides some insights into the funding shortfalls of the MDG era.

Once adopted in September, all governments will be committed to a far more ambitious development agenda than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a commitment from reducing poverty to eliminating it, from delivering partial services, to delivering universal basic services to all. This means the world needs to turn much more decisively towards setting-out how these will be implemented – and turning this plan into action. Financing these goals will be a vital part of making them a reality. Given the rather lacklustre outcomes of the recently concluded ‘Financing for Development’ conference in Addis Ababa, this will take a redoubling of efforts and commitments to spend more and better towards the achievement of the SDGs.

Earlier in the year, Government Spending Watch (GSW) carried out analysis of our data-sets which span 67 low- and lower-middle income countries spending for seven of the MDG sectors, and began to identify some of the changes in spending required to meet the SDGs for different sectors. The conclusions of this were outlined in our Government Spending Watch report – “Financing the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs”. The findings help us synthesise lessons in the final year of delivering the ‘Millennium Promise’, and to inform the agenda around financing the new SDGs. Each sector has its own lessons to be learnt – including the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.

Government spending on WASH is currently at a virtual stand still

Our analysis shows that government spending in the WASH sector has been largely stagnant over the last few years. Far from scaling up spending, as one might hope, financing for the WASH sector has remained mainly at a standstill.  In 2014, only 3 of 31 countries (Kiribati, Samoa and Sao Tome), with data available, were allocating 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to WASH – the estimated amount required to reach the MDG water and sanitation targets.

This means that only 10% of the countries we track – and have data available for – have met the international WASH target. The sector as a whole has been suffering from major funding shortfalls for meeting the MDGs over the last few years (let alone the SDGs!). On average, our analysis showed, that WASH budgets account for only 2.3% of government budgets and 0.9% of GDP. Again, these averages have been stagnant since 2011.

Clearly, a radical scaling-up of financing for WASH will be required to scale-up results from the MDGs to the SDGs.

This blog is part of four-part blog series written by Jo Walker who manages the Government Spending Watch (GSW) programme. GSW believes that there is an urgent need for a much clearer picture of government spending, and for citizens, and their representatives in civil society organisations, to have access to comprehensive and timely data, so that they can hold their governments to account.

Read the second blog in our series “Scaling-up WASH spending to reach everyone, everywhere” (2/4) to learn more about what will it take to reach the unreached.