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Budget 2019 can help to leverage improvement in development outcomes for Sustainable Development Goals

As the countdown inches closer towards the 2030 deadline to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) with 169 interconnected targets and indicators, it is time to frame and implement budgetary mechanisms and innovative partnerships.

July 09, 2019 / 05:37 PM IST

Anant Bhagwati

One key announcement in the Union Budget 2019 by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is the launch of an electronic social sector exchange, under SEBI regulations, for the listing social enterprises and voluntary organizations for the realization of social welfare objectives, so they can raise debt, equity or units such as mutual funds.

This can have a catalytic impact, however there are three key pre-requisites, with a big ask for the social service sector :

  1. NGOs will need to be able to showcase outcomes and impact as transparently, coherently and succinctly as their for-profit peers. This needs them to work hard to define metrics, baseline the current impact, and find ways to show intermediate outcomes, since social sector outcomes do not usually follow a quarterly cadence. Without this key pre-requisite, the non-profit sector might struggle to participate in this key vehicle for funds.

  2. Funders, especially corporates, will need to think and act strategically, to enable, support and invest into these funds, with a longer term duration, and with the sensitivity needed, to enable NGOs to define and deliver on these metrics. The first 5 years will be crucial, and herein, the role of forward thinking corporates, philanthropists and investors will be key to contribute the money and intellect needed to define these outcomes and support NGOs driving this agenda.

  3. Finally, a collaborative approach to bring together sector leaders (e.g. Adolescents, Mental Health) on a common platform, to define and open source the outcome frameworks will enable much wider participation, including the non-profits who do great work, but don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to define such precise metrics.

Looking backing to 2004, India had adopted a gender-responsive budgeting based on a recommendation by an expert group committee on ‘Classification of Budgetary Transactions’ constituted by the Ministry of Finance. Coincidently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who was the member of National Commission for Women (NCW) back then had invited suggestions for inputs on inclusive economic policies for women around that time.

Since then gender budgeting is being used to achieve progress towards gender equality which links to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Around 16 Indian states practice gender budgeting today and these states perform better on indicators such as antenatal care, institutional delivery, child/early marriage, and spousal violence.

As the countdown inches closer towards the 2030 deadline to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 interconnected targets and indicators, it is time to frame and implement budgetary mechanisms and innovative partnerships. The Union budget is a key expression of nation’s political, financial and policy direction and we must ensure that SDGs are integrated in the process. The latest announcement of social stock exchange is only a small step towards such integration. This integration can then be used to identify funding gaps as per the goals and geography.

The integration effort has been already initiated in a few Indian states and some countries. Assam has taken a lead with a complete budget mapping and IT-based SDG monitoring system. Nepal has conducted similar exercise where SDG coding and mapping was done for development programs.

In bid to improve visibility over each SDG-wise budget allocation and spending in state and Union Budgets, the Government of India has initiated a massive exercise to track India’s progress using SDG India Index through National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. With progress tracking systems and larger political will in place, we need to shift our focus immediately on the allocation and utilization of financial resources by multi-stakeholder collaborations focused on SDGs.

A better understanding of the goal-wise funding and implementation gaps can be leveraged to create multi-stakeholder collaborations to improve outcomes in each ‘field’ such as sanitation, water, health and youth empowerment. These multi-stakeholder collaborations can pool in the expertise of each stakeholder including government, researchers, non-profits, philanthropists and media to achieve the specified SDG outcome at a district, state and national level. In Jharkhand, a multi-stakeholder collaborative — 10 to 19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative is working towards achieving outcomes linked to SDG 3, 4 and 5 for adolescents’ empowerment in the state.

Providing greater visibility to SDGs in Union Budgets will not only enable us to steer policy action in right direction, but it also allows us to foster partnerships to drive action on ground.

The author is the Director of Dasra — a strategic philanthropy foundation.

Moneycontrol Contributor
Moneycontrol Contributor
first published: Jul 9, 2019 04:55 pm