Bosnia-Herzegovina: Child Rights Impact Assessment of potential electricity price increases (Innovation)
Major Area: Basic Education and Partnership
The Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) methodology is intended to become a cost-effective tool for policy makers to assess potential impacts of new policies on families with children and child-supporting services and institutions. A sophisticated methodology was developed and tested via a pilot research focused on the privatisation of the energy sector, which is expected to substantially increase the prices of electricity and the economic burden on families with children.
Data obtained from a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, desk review and econometric work provided insights into household coping mechanisms and has for the first time substantiated concerns about the impact of policy decisions on both families with children and children’s institutions. The results included information on intra-household expenditure and financial coping mechanisms and their effect on children within the household. The CRIA pilot exposed the potential negative impact of electricity price rises on children’s access to health, education and social protection. Household coping strategies would also negatively impact children’s health, increase child labour, reduce children’s access to information, and increase girls and women’s workload. The pilot has proposed child well-being/rights indicators for monitoring purposes and reinforced the need for mitigation measures.
The CRIA focused on the development of methodologies to assess the impact of economic policies on children from a child rights perspective. The methodology was developed based on experiences of the Poverty and Social Impact Assessment (PSIA) developed by the World Bank.
The CRIA methodology is intended for use by policy makers as an ex-ante impact assessment of planned policies. The methodology was developed and piloted in cooperation with national government institutions and NGOs. The survey findings are intended to become the baseline for the development of the social protection components of the Country Development Strategy and will be integral to Social Inclusion Strategy for Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), both of which will be finalised in 2008.
The CRIA methodology is cost-effective as it relies on existing data sets for preliminary analysis and is intended to be attached to large-scale national surveys, such as UNICEF supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), household budget surveys or Demographic and Health surveys. (In this case, the quantitative CRIA survey was attached to a MICS sample and available data, which created potentials to reduce the sample within the survey and thus costs of the assessment). The design of key child well-being indicators allows for cross-referencing of data from official statistical sources. The methodology has focused on economic policies but has potential to be used to assess the impact of new social policies, the impact of general price rise and will add an often lacking economic dimension to social policy planning. The interest in the methodology by national stakeholders will be further explored in 2008 given the relatively limited monitoring and evaluation (M&E) capacities within the public administration system. The CRIA will be replicated in 2010 and 2013 on proposals for water utilities reform in cooperation with government institutions. The methodology is also of interest to other countries in the region.
The methodology was developed with the intention to strengthen both national M&E capacities and to address the overall lack of scientifically sound data on child poverty and well-being. Currently, data collection on children and households is seldom collected by the official statistical systems or by social sectors institutions and are mainly commissioned by international organisations. In addition, there is limited technical expertise on similar methodology within the government structures.
The methodology and research were designed and implemented through a combined approach in which national and international consultants worked in close cooperation with the BiH Directorate for Economic Planning, as well as an appointed Steering Board comprising representatives from social sectors and energy sectors. In order to broaden the scope of capacity building, the project included national NGOs already specialising in child rights monitoring. The methodology was developed in close partnership with Save the Children UK and DFID. Once the methodological manual is finalised, an assessment of the M&E capacities in sectoral ministries will be carried out to plan capacity development and potential replication of CRIA through the new project to enhance the social protection and inclusion system for children and a new project on economic governance.
The CRIA methodology and pilot survey were finalised and research report published and presented to the public in December 2007. The feedback from government partners on the research and its methodology indicates a high degree of interest in methodology, especially given that a number of social sector ministries are currently strengthening their monitoring and statistical departments as part of the public administration reform processes. The data on children gathered through the research were seen as necessary given the overall lack of socio-economic analysis on children in BiH.
Research data will be used within the BiH National Development Strategy and the Social Inclusion strategy. The CRIA research on the effects of potential increase in prices of electricity has indicated that households with children may respond to electricity price rises differently from households without children. In particular, the preferred coping strategy of most households, namely to seek more adult employment, seems to be less popular the larger the number of children in the household. More disturbing is the fact that households that already use children for labour seem more likely to choose other coping mechanisms such as substituting with fossil fuels, strategies which are likely to adversely impact on children's health. Perhaps this is because there is little scope for extending employment within the household and alternative methods of coping will need to be sought.
Overall, the analysis confirms that the presence and the numbers of children in a household both exacerbate vulnerability to poverty and alter household behaviour in a way that may not be conducive to children's best interests. The design of mitigation policies needs to be carefully considered in the light of these findings - the presence and number of children in a household may be important factors, along with household income, in assessing household poverty risk. The qualitative research on institutions providing education, health and child protection services suggests that even modest electricity price increases might lead to cuts in the quality of service, reduced availability of these services, and/or increases in the prices they charge users, and hence reduced accessibility for poorer families. The research suggests considerable difficulties in institutional ability to meet commercial rate electricity bills. There is also some unease about seasonal changes to tariffs which mean that costs are higher at times of year when the need is greatest. Given this, the study recommends the use of specialised discounted tariffs directed at institutional bodies that work with children and poverty reducing measures to cushion the impact of reforms on vulnerable households.
A range of mitigation instruments have been proposed in the literature to date. The study recommends “lifeline” tariffs to help the most vulnerable consumers. Such tariffs have the benefit of relative simplicity in that the information required to provide such tariffs is likely to be less than other income based measures (since consumers of 'essential' electricity effectively select themselves), and they impact on the problem of high electricity prices directly. The measures can also be partly funded by increasing the marginal costs to bulk users as well as by establishing the earmarked cash transfers or general income support.
The CRIA project was designed in four phases and currently the second phase has been completed. In 2008, UNICEF partner supported drafting of the methodological manual by national government partners. UNICEF plans the replication of the CRIA on water poverty, including an increased focus on capacity development of government partners with regards to M&E and the application of impact assessment methodology to ensure ex-post, ex-ante and formative evaluation of the policies and programmes for children. Given that the study proposes specific mitigation measures through the social protection system, the advocacy and dissemination plan should be informed by monitoring and analysing of economic trends and impact of the increasing economic pressures on families in the context of the potential economic crisis and the CRIA findings. In 2008, the Republika Srpska (one of the two BiH entities) re-introduced subsidies for electricity costs for the poorest households. This may be further expanded to include other mitigation measures recommended in the study. Potential for partnership with the World Bank, which is finalising its review of the energy sector in BiH, including on the impact of prices on consumers and the potential for stronger joint advocacy, will be explored in order to influence improved targeting of the social mitigation measures 10 families with children and children’s institutions.