A report of the workshop on Sustainable Development Goals and budget-making, organized by Centre for Social Justice, Pathey, Centre for Budget & Governance Accountability and Wada Na Todo Abhiyaan in Ahmedabad:
The United Nations General Assembly resolution ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs)’ is officially in force since January, 2016. The Agenda comprises of a comprehensive, integrated and universal set of 17 Goals and 169 targets and builds upon the efforts of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to chart the world development roadmap for the next 15 years, which balances economic growth, social development and environment protection.
India has risen to the occasion with its commitment towards SDGs being reiterated from the highest political level. The NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog is the nodal body tasked with coordinating SDGs and preparing national framework for the rolling out of SDGs. As the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) comes up with the national indicators and the NITI Aayog remoulds our development planning structure (15-year vision document, 7-year strategy paper and 3-year action plan) one hopes that the spirit of sustainability and the pledge to leave no one behind is duly reflected in each of these policy articulations.
A look at the ambitious scope and revolutionary zeal of SDGs gives in to the realization that the inclusive vision of such a world reality by 2030, mandates an innovative government working in creative partnerships with all stakeholders, including the general public and civil society organizations (CSOs) in planning, performance and monitoring of SDG processes.
Budget analysis of policy commitments of government is an effective means of involving citizens in governance by enabling them to make sense of the actual development priorities, the progress being made and thereby hold the governments accountable. CSOs play an increasingly important role in analyzing government budget policies, advocating for more transparent and inclusive budget processes and ensuring deeper engagement in the budget process on the part of legislators, media and citizens.
Centre for Social Justice jointly with Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, Pathey and Wada Na Todo Abhiyaan organized a present workshop in Ahmedabad aimed at developing understanding on and strengthening implementation and monitoring of SDGs in India by initiating budget analysis of government promises and spending for key goals. The objectives of the workshop included:
- Status update on SDGs implementation in India.
- Budget analysis of Centre and State governments relating to key Sustainable Development Goals.
- Increased budget awareness and literacy among CSOs to enhance government accountability.
The workshop focused on enabling citizens groups to integrate budget analysis and policy advocacy approach in their work and realize its full potential in monitoring and evaluation of SDGs. It particularly focused on goals relating to poverty elimination, quality education, gender equality and access to justice.
Fahad Mohammed Khan traced the history behind the SDGs noting that the MDGs had not been achieved up to the mark by the time it was up for review in 2015. There was no uniformity in the achievement of those goals and a number of other issues existed. These previous set of goals had been formed in a very exclusive manner as opposed to the process undertaken for the formation of the SDGs which was widely participatory in nature, involving civil society organizations (CSOs) and even the public. Around six to seven are SDGs are similar to MDGs. Other goals incorporate current needs such as peace, access to justice, environment, infrastructural development etc. A three-dimensional approach for social, economic and environmentally-sound development has been used where the achievement of none of the goals is isolated from each other.
He explained that the SDGs came onto force on 1st January, 2016 and NITI Aayog is responsible for its implementation in India. Mapping was done to relate existing schemes to the SDGs. However, with 169 targets to be met and no final indicators to work with being made, the implementation process is on stand-by. It is expected that by the end of 2016, something concrete may be possible.
He went on to note how ground-level awareness of SDGs is a responsibility of CSOs and the public should be able to understand the Government’s international commitments and push for change. There is scope for discussion and debate on this. We can contribute to the global agenda right now because the time is right. Creative solutions for the achievement of these revolutionary SDGs are possible and as a part of this workshop, an idea will be given regarding the same. Tool generation is another objective since the workshop is designed to ensure the making of tools for monitoring the implementation of the SDGs, which can be used by the public. With such knowledge and on analyzing the budget, it is possible to find out what the Government prioritizes.
A question was asked about what is the need of the hour with regard to SDGs – policy analysis, budget analysis or implementation? Nupur replied to this question saying that although policy is being committed, the budget is inadequate, which is why an analysis of this kind is required to see to it that the resources are allocated are allocated to meet the promises made.
Neeta Hardikar spoke about how the Ann Suraksha Adhikaar Abhiyaan is worked on by more than 70 CSOs. Dignity, access to resources, gender equality etc. is the angle with which this Abhiyaan is seen. When the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) assigned Rs. 6000 to be given as maternity benefit, a collective call for action was taken by Anandi (the organization Hardikar is from). She noted that only working women in the organized sector have been considered in the Rajya Sabha when these provisions were being framed. Intervention is needed to bring in working women in the unorganized sector within the framework. SDGs have to be seen from a larger point of view. Here, she quoted DMS leader Fuliben as saying “We ask for food, not as charity, but as a right.”
The commitments include nutritious and sufficient food for all year round, ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030, doubling agricultural productivity and the incomes of small-scale food producers, particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists, fishers etc. by 2030. But these commitments seem idealistic considering current circumstances. She backed her opinions with the hard-hitting fact that today, every third child is malnourished and most pregnant women are anemic and require nutritious food. Also, most food production (unorganized sector) today is done by women and they form the 80% of the total working women force. And although ensuring sustainable food production systems and implementing resilient agricultural practices by 2030 is another SDG, traditional agricultural practices are dying out. Food production and diversity should be made sustainable. The current focus is on this.
Hardikar gave the example of the Ann Suraksha Adhikaar Abhiyaan in Gujarat since 2014. It was taken up in 30 talukas, 3 urba slums over 20 districts, identified as wherever the Health and Family Welfare Department’s performance, infrastructure etc. is very poor. The findings were that 15% of the children were severely malnourished and 30% were moderately malnourished. The problem was that when the NFSA came in April, 2016, many children were not mentioned in ration cards and this resulted in less food availability in those households. Many families did not have Mamata cards. With regard to backward classes, the status was as follows –
- ST children – 25% severely malnourished & 30% moderately malnourished;
- SC children – 19% severely malnourished & 27% moderately malnourished; and
- OBC children – 18% severely malnourished & 29% moderately malnourished.
She pointed out how agricultural decisions were most often taken by men. Decent wages and resource rights for the women are issues which need attention. She also raised the very interesting question about how we are going to recognize women’s unpaid contribution at home. Women have to be seen as independent rights holders and positive self-image for them must be built by engaging with other institutions as well. She noted how the gender just food security measures in the NFSA made a positive impact by including provisions according to which women are now recognized as heads of family in ration cards, supplementary nutrition is being provided for children and pregnant women, 67% households are covered under the Public Food Distribution Scheme, universal maternity benefits entitlement has been raised to Rs. 6000 etc.
She closed citing how discrimination in laws, policies and programmes for food security are major obstacles with regard to Goal 2’s implementation and questioned how, if the budget allocation is low and further cuts are being made, this goal can be achieved.
Speaking on Understanding Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation Process in Government Departments, Gujarat’s former additional chief secretary, planning, Varun Maira, spoke about the entire framework surrounding the concept behind these goals, from the MDGs to Human Development Reports to SDGs.
There were 8 MDGs made for developing and poor countries and there was not much for the developed countries to do. They were as follows –
- To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
- To achieve universal primary education;
- To promote gender equality;
- To reduce child mortality;
- To improve maternal health;
- To combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases;
- To ensure environmental sustainability; and
- To develop partnerships for development.
The Human Development Reports came up since the 1990s to measure human development in the countries of the world. Currently, Germany and Scandinavian countries in Europe and North America in the Americas are developed in the full sense of these Reports.
The 17 SDGs however talk more about the social sector. And where the MDGs were discussed by experts, the SDGs were discussed by Governments. He pointed out how, now, there were too many goals with too many targets and without indicators. He related the SDGs with the MDGs as follows –
MDG 1 – SDGs 1 & 2
MDG 2 – SDG 4
MDG 3 – SDGs 4 & 5
MDGs 4, 5 & 6 – SDG 3
MDG 7 – SDGs 6 & 15
MDG 8 – SDG 17
The remaining new goals among the SDGs (7 to 14 & 16) have a combined total of 83 targets.
He went on to compare MDGs and SDGs as follows –
He also stated that non-availability of critical social sector data (especially at the State and District levels) for monitoring SDGs is a major obstacle along with the fact that central information is not always well-received by the states. Considering the parameters for this information’s collection are authenticity, periodicity, coverage, reliability and consistency, India has not made any significant progress in their respect.
He also listed the issues imposed by SDGs as follows –
- Multiplicity of goals and targets;
- Vagueness in formulation of targets;
- Many targets are idealistic and contain statements of intent without having clarity in terms of parity of their implementability;
- Focusing of Government programmes is a monumental task;
- Availability and reliability of data have not been addressed;
- Monitoring is going to be a major challenge
An action plan is required to achieve the SDGs. There is a need for monitorable indicators and fixing of nodal ministries and NITI Aayog. The question also arises whether there is a need to continue the 20-point programme and whether the State Governments will provide sufficient funds for the achievement of these goals, after the 13th Finance Commission. There are many doubts regarding what mechanisms will be used for mid-term and long-term appraisal to review the progress made under the SDGs, what is the training component for planners, activists etc.
A question came up about whether there is any hope in light of the stated negative facts. He answered saying that a ray of hope may to be possible with convergence of departments, but only by a long shot.
Speaking on exploring avenues for environmental protection, Mahesh Pandya said that world cannot be seen without paying climate change its due attention. He suggested that the audience could seek information through RTIs to the Government, asking for India’s SDG Action Plan (which as of now is still in the process of being prepared despite the SDGs coming into force in January, 2016). He spoke about how climate change needs to be taken seriously and gave various examples of how development is being hailed and encouraged at the cost of the planet.
In this scenario, monitoring of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is essential. CSOs could check out how much CSR money is available in places where industries are established. This CSR is of many types such as environmental CSR (as per environmental clearance), Corporate CSR as per Companies’ Act), Community Welfare CSR (as per Government and Companies’ contract). CSOs have to take this up and start a conversation with the United Nations Organization (UN) from a human-rights perspective, to ensure the achievement and implementation of SDGs in India.
Questions were asked about what ozone is, what waste management options were being explored in our country, Pandya answered these questions, explaining scientific terms and citing waste management especially e-waste management and biomedical waste management that has garnered major attention in recent times. He also stressed that a climate change action plan can only be implemented through adaptation and mitigation.
Vasudev Charupa spoke about SDG 16-b, i.e., to promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies as part of its inclusion and participation goal. He cited statistics, explaining that even today, every 18 minutes, a crime is committed against Dalits. He showed the National Commission for SC and Crimes’ data compilation by NACDOR to show the findings regarding atrocities committed on Dalits from 1991 to 2015. He raised the question of how development indicators are framed to measure development in society.
The status of implementation of the SCSP Budget in Gujarat from 2011 to 2016 was discussed. It was noted that proportionate allocation has not been done. Utilization of money allocated for community programmes has not been done. Cases are pending; under-reporting is still a major issue. The State Vigilance Committees meet only now in Gujarat. Manual scavenging is a menace. Atrocities affected families do not get full compensation. Hence, it’s obvious that all affirmative action should have special provisions for Dalits.
Prathik Vooshamalla spoke about the Scheduled Caste/Tribal Sub-Plan (SCSP/TSP) Act in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana State. He traced the history behind the implementation of the Act, citing Articles 38 and 46 of the Constitution of India. He mentioned hard data explaining that since the wave of liberalization hit India in the 1990s, Andhra Pradesh lost 10000 jobs, most of which were those of SC/ST employees. Hence the plan came into effect after a long struggle. Its provisions talk about substantial reduction in poverty and unemployment, creation of productive assets to sustain the growth, human resource development by providing adequate educational and health services, physical and financial security against all types of exploitation and oppression etc.
However, he mentioned a major glitch stating that non-communication and consensus between the sub-castes has seriously affected the implementation of the Act. It has been very difficult to get them together to fight for the common cause of getting the Sub Plan implemented.
He also took the audience through the initial process of how the Sub Plan Act became a reality, recalling the state government’s 15-hour long debate without a tea break! The Act came into being in 2014. Since then, several schemes were brought. Yet, over 1 lakh land scheme beneficiaries exist, out of which only some 3000-plus people have actually received the benefit. There are other schemes as well like Kalyana Laxmi, Ambedkar Overseas Vidhya Nidhi, 2BHK scheme etc. He concluded saying that the allocated money is not spent and implementation gaps exist, which have resulted in a less than satisfactory outcome of the Act coming into force.
Questions were asked as to how the dialogue on the SCSP can be increased and where Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh claim to be free of manual scavenging, what is the level of dialogue? In places where the Supreme Court’s orders are being disregarded, where do the affected people go for implementation assurance since people’s voices are being shot down? How much budget was diverted from such Sub Plans to other agendas? A lengthy interactive session ensued.
Jawed Alam Khan spoke about what is needed to make the Government accountable. Budget is estimated revenue/income and expenditure of the Government. Budget planning is basic estimation every year, presented by the Central, State as well as local governments.
He explained that budget analysis regarding the marginalized involves the following –
o Examination of budget;
o Advocacy; and
o Making available information to relevant stakeholders.
Its purpose includes the following –
Enhancing funds for the disadvantaged groups;
Wide information-sharing in a timely manner, and improving public understanding of budget;
Influencing budget allocation;
Initiating debates on sector-specific implications of budget allocation; and
Informing revenue policies.
He stressed on the fact that good advocacy is not possible without hard facts. He then went on to distinguish between taxes as direct (income, corporation taxes etc.) and indirect (customs, excise duties etc.). In India, the ratio of indirect taxes is more than that of direct taxes. Black money was elaborated upon. It is usually invested in real estate, gold, stocks, foreign currency and also found in foreign banks.
He pointed out that the core objective of this budget analysis workshop was social justice. The steps involved were as follows –
- Identifying issues;
- Developing understanding; and
- Decoding budgetary information structure.
Budget analysis is something which has received attention only in past 20 years, such as during the United Nations Inter-governmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing in 2014 and the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015. The Addis Ababa Agenda focused on resource requirement, sources of financing, constraint in domestic resource mobilization and investments needs for the implementation of SDGs. Investment areas for the 17 SDGs such as education, social protection, food security and sustainable agriculture, infrastructure (energy, water, sanitation, transport, telecommunication), ecosystem services and biodiversity, emerging response to humanitarian work, data for the implementation of the SDGs etc. It was noted that there is a need for investment in climate change adaptation and mitigation and this must be integrated into each SDG. When 6% of the GDP goes into education and 3% into health, it is obvious that these areas are not the Government’s priority.
He concluded by saying that the NITI Aayog, which is responsible for the implementation of SDGs in India, has not spoken on policies. Only existing schemes have been linked to the SDGs and this linkage too is problematic.
Mahendra Jethmalani spoke about his analysis of Gujarat’s macro-economics, focusing on the emerging trends and opportunities in public finance in the state.
In Gujarat, the sectoral contribution of GSDP is as follows –
- 19% – Primary Sector;
- 43 % – Secondary Sector; and
- 38% – Tertiary Sector.
The 2016-17 budget of Gujarat was then taken up for understanding technical terms and ways to find information through budget analysis. However, he noted that governance and accountability is also required after the budget analysis, in order for the exercise to be successful in terms of outcome. It was evident from the Gujarat state budget document that education and health are not prioritized. The effects of this were discussed.
Questions were asked about hoe the situation can become better and which areas the budget is being spent the most. He showed the statistics that would answer the question. Development being the focus, infrastructure happens to be a major spending area. He also answered several questions such as how much time CSO’s should ideally spend on budget analysis of this kind etc.