Kazakhstan: Social Budgeting - Child Friendly Budgets (Lessons Learned)
Major Area : Policy Advocacy and Partnership
To effectively address the challenges of financing the social sector for children, in April 2007, UNICEF Kazakhstan initiated a high-level international conference called ‘Increasing Social Orientation of Budgets and Efficiency of Public Expenditures at National and Local Levels in the Best Interests of Children and Families in Kazakhstan’. The conference hosted more than 150 participants representing worldwide think tanks, UN agencies, civil society organizations, the government of Kazakhstan, as well as national research institutions. The conference aimed to highlight and propose ways to improve the effectiveness of budget policy in Kazakhstan, to promote the best interests of children and to protect their rights, as well as to increase the sustainability and socio-economic status of families. The conference resulted in the adoption of a set of recommendations on the promotion and implementation of Child Friendly Budget (CFB) principles to support children and their families in Kazakhstan.
Upon completion of this CFB project, the following lessons learned were derived: (i) budget processes are intensively political – a mixture of evidence-based advocacy and normative (rights and obligations) influence is needed to guide these processes; (ii) CFB principles need to gain entry to a high level political agenda; (iii) entry into budget work depends on serious analyses with a child rights focus (trends in social spending, child poverty, etc.) and credibility – taking into account macro- and micro-economic assumptions and reliable statistics; (iv) the need to closely work with partners such as government line ministries, Parliament, NGOs, civil society, media, local governments, academia, and international organizations; (v) UNICEF and other children’s organizations should act as promoters and advocators for CFB principles; and (vi) the need to use child rights indicators and MDGs as a measure of socially responsible budgets.
The issue of socially oriented budgets has recently become very important for Kazakhstan. The country has experienced an economic boom with a budget surplus of 2-3 percent for the last few years and the availability of additional investment resources affects the application of new public policies approaches on the macro- and micro-economic levels. Despite the remarkable economic changes in the country, there are still many fiscal and social challenges: (i) although social sector funding has increased in absolute terms, it has not been proportional to GDP growth (10.7 percent in 2006) – public expenditures to education (3.2 percent in 2006), healthcare (2.2 percent) and social protection (4.1 percent) as a percentage of GDP have been steadily decreasing over the last 15 years; (ii) children and families are still not yet a real priority on national macro-, meso- and micro-economic agendas; (iii) the public budget is directly linked to the wellbeing and quality of life of children, but no particular emphasis is given to how state expenditures affect child outcomes in the evolving policy and fiscal contexts; (iv) lack of necessary expertise, capacity and potential to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of public spending for children and families; (v) lack of prioritization within social spending, e.g. reaching the most vulnerable children and families; (vi) lack of a much-needed social services system to protect children; and (vii) reliance mostly on a child cash transfers approach without the complementary support of systematic public policies and actions to address the social challenges that children and families face.
Strategy and application
CFB conference conception and delivery:
- Early 2006: efforts to make children more visible on government social policy and budget agendas through evidence based data and high level of advocacy;
- June 2006: a round table to discuss social sector budget planning and financing and enlist partners from NGOs and international organizations;
- Agreed on a conference on child-focused budgeting with key national stakeholders: Senate, Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population, and the National Commission for Family Affairs and Gender Policy;
- A task force (conference co-organizers) was established to steer the preparation process and work out conference documents;
- Three studies on CFB were commissioned: a desk review of international experience in promotion of CFB and two studies to review budgetary policy and process in the social sector for children and families at national and local levels;
- High-level support from UNICEF and international key-note speakers;
- A follow-up strategy on the promotion of CFB in Kazakhstan.
Conference discussions focused upon the impact of public expenditures on child outcomes, identification of major deficiencies, constraints and gaps in national and local budget planning, allocation and expenditure measures that negatively impact children’s lives. As an outcome of the conference, a set of recommendations were adopted for i) increased appropriations for education, healthcare, and social protection of children, young people, and families; ii) development of measures to increase effectiveness and transparency of public budget planning, appropriation and expenditure; iii) development of a system to monitor effectiveness, poverty rates and quality of life indicators with special focus on children and women; and iv) creation of a team in Parliament to promote and protect children’s rights in national development programmes, plans and budgets.
In September 2007, a few of these recommendations were included by Members of Parliament in the Declaration of Parliamentarians on Family Policy in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Further, a new ‘Social Council’ was established in Parliament that will focus upon the challenges of increasing public spending to the social sector and promotion of a children’s agenda at both national and local levels in the country. In addition, the government adopted a new Results Based Management strategy that will cover all areas of public policy planning and implementation, including the budgetary components; and decided to increase public spending to the healthcare sector to 4 percent of GDP by 2010.