1998 Jamaica: The 1998/99 Jamaican National Budget: What's In It for the Children?
Author: Shirley, R. A.
One of the successful child participation activities that has been implemented by the Jamaica Coalition on the Rights of the Child (JCRC) during the past three years is an annual budget analysis focusing on the specific allocations geared towards improving the welfare of children. These sessions were used to guide the membership of the Coalition through a critical analysis of the Jamaican National Fiscal Budget each year. The revealed findings allowed members to formulate more compelling arguments to improve the effectiveness of their lobbying strategies. More importantly, children had an opportunity to participate in the debates and were able to understand more fully the implications of budget allocations for programmes concerned with the welfare of children. Copies of the budget analysis prepared by a consultant, along with recommendations from the children, were sent each year to the Minister of Finance and other related Ministries. This exercise is once again being undertaken in 1998, but an attempt is being made to have a more in-depth analysis of the 1998/99 National Fiscal Budget.
Purpose / Objective
The general objectives of this evaluation are to:
- identify the percentage of budgetary allocations for programmes related specifically to the welfare of children
- assess the extent to which priority has been given in the national budget to the programmes and projects detailed in the National Plan of Action submission
- try to determine whether there has been any decline in real terms in the level of budgetary allocation by the Government in fiscal year 1998/99, and actual expenditure in fiscal year 1997/98, for programmes and projects targeted towards the implementation of NPA and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Jamaica
The consultant familiarized herself with a number of relevant documents on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 20/20 Initiative, the UNICEF Progress of Nations 1998 Report, and the activities of the JCRC which were provided by the JCRC and UNICEF. She also reviewed relevant Government of Jamaica 1998/99 budget documents and other Government of Jamaica documents.
The primary source document(s) for the analysis exercise were the Estimates of Expenditure (Parts 1 and 2) in terms of ascertaining the extent of Government expenditure on child welfare programmes. The analysis was somewhat hampered as a result of this, however, as it was sometimes difficult to extrapolate the expenditure figures related to child welfare programmes in certain Ministries, as these were combined with expenditure on programmes involving adults.
Key Findings and Conclusions
It is clear that definite efforts have been made in the budgetary estimates by the Government of Jamaica to finance programmes related to the welfare of children and women in development. However, the analysis of the expenditure estimates would be greatly enhanced by a refinement of the data into further sub-categories, in order to extrapolate expenditure estimates for these programmes.
Without further assistance from the Social Sector Government Ministries, it will be difficult to estimate and evaluate the budgetary allocations against the NPA Year 2000 Goals and CRC goals. This is particularly important when trying to allocate administrative and operational expenses to the administration of the child welfare and women in development programmes at the Regional Office/Head Office level in the Ministries, and other global expenses, etc.
The decentralization of the activities in the Ministries of Education and Health have also made this analysis more complex, and the move towards User Fees in the Health Sector and Cost-Sharing in the Educational System also needs to be taken into consideration. In particular, care should be taken to assess the impact that these will have on the services in these two areas -Will there be a significant reduction in doctors' visits and an increase in hospital visits? -Will there be a reduction in attendance levels in the Educational System as a result of Cost-Sharing, as parents struggle with the cost of sending their child to school and day care centres?
The Ministry of Health is a major ministry for child welfare programmes and issues. However, it was apparent in conducting this budget analysis that the Ministry's successes/achievements in the provision of medical care somewhat camouflage the social welfare issues, particularly in the area of primary health care.
There also needs to be further refinement of the statistics in the Ministry of Labour, particularly in the Direction and Administration of the Food Stamp Programme and Public Assistance Services to Children with Disabilities. In other words, it would be extremely useful if the budgetary allocations for both sub-programmes be sub-divided to reflect the proportions of costs associated with the relevant child welfare programmes, etc.
There was a reduction in recurrent budget allocations the Food Stamp Programme for (a) Assistance to Children (19% reduction) and (b) Assistance to Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (6.7% reduction) in FY 1998/99. However, there was a 98% increase in the allocation to the Family Plan Assistance under this programme.
The Bureau of Women' s Affairs and the Women's Centre received significant increases (55% and 60% respectively) in their recurrent budgetary allocations in FY 1998/99.
No budgetary allocation was made in the FY 1998/99 estimates for the Children and Youth at Risk Project.
Capital Expenditure budgets were reduced in some areas, while no capital expenditure allocations were made for (a) juvenile institutions, (b) Family Courts, (c) Central Food Organization Store, (d) Institute of Sports, etc.
There was also some increase in the per capita allowances for maintenance of children in Government Children' s Homes, and there was a slight increase in the capital budgets for maintenance and repairs of these homes and also for Places of Safety.
There was a significant increase in the Capital Budget expenditure of the Ministry of Education. The increase in the Capital Budget allocations for the Ministry of Education is due primarily to the forgiveness of debt by the British Government. This is a one-off exercise, and the issue that needs to be addressed, is whether or not the Government will be able to match this type of provision in the future.
Most budgetary increases in FY 1997/98 and FY 1998/99 have gone primarily to increases in wages and salaries. This brings into strong focus the issue of whether an increase in wages and salaries in and of itself will result in improved delivery of services in the social sector ministries. In fact, one of the weaknesses of this budget analysis is the fact that the analysis simply takes a look at budget allocations but this does not give an indication of the quality of the services provided with the funds allocated for the various programmes.
There is some indication of a decline in real terms in several areas of the budgetary allocations to the various programmes in the social sector ministries. In general, outside of ( a) increases in salaries and wages, (b) the debt forgiveness by the British Government, (c) and the major capital projects in the Health and Education sectors, in most other areas, allocations are flat or declining, thus implying a decline in real terms.
One of the other limitations of this budget analysis is that it was impossible using this methodology to assess the extent to which the budget is based on the Government' s capacity (i.e. what the GOJ can afford) as against the actual needs that are out there in the society. For example, what percentage of the Jamaican children that need Food Stamps actually benefit under the Food Stamp Programme of the Ministry of Labour?
Nonetheless, the analysis, including a review of Jamaica's progress in meeting the Year 2000 Goals, suggest that significant successes have been achieved -- major immunization and health-related milestones, in particular, have been accomplished. A major challenge for the GOJ will be to maintain these standards and the requisite expenditure provisions for these programmes.
In order to increase the effectiveness of future budget analysis exercises, it is recommended that these be accompanied by selective qualitative research projects which look at the quality of service delivery and try to determine real measures of impact on the welfare of children. The combination of budgetary allocations combined with impact analysis will provide decision-makers in the public and private sector on the real progress being made in achieving the Year 2000 and CRC goals in Jamaica (cost efficiency and the quality of service delivery).
An attempt should also be made in the future to investigate the impact of the various debt forgiveness programmes on the funding of programmes for children.
In addition, it would be a useful exercise to analyze the cost effectiveness of administrative costs in the social sector ministries -- administrative expenses represent major budgetary allocations (both salaries and other operational expenses). The Government ministries might want to consider having an independent evaluation of the cost effectiveness of administrative expenses in key areas within their ministries.
It would also be interesting to try to ascertain Rural versus Urban budgetary allocations to child welfare and women in development programmes - again, there is an underlying issue of need versus capacity.
Follow Up Strategies:
There is need for further communication between the various Ministries involved in the delivery of child welfare programmes. It is also proposed that discussions be held between senior budget officers and administrative officials in the major/key Ministries and the Ministry of Finance to develop a common approach to presenting each Budget line item, so that it is possible to ascertain the specific budgetary allocations to child welfare programmes, in keeping with the GOJ's commitment to meeting the NPA Year 2000 Goals and CRC Goals.
Consideration should be given to transferring the responsibility for Day Care Centres from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education - this should assist in the delivery of service and reduce administrative costs/duplication of services, etc. Plus, it just seems to be a neater fit to have Day Care Services incorporated with other Early Childhood Education -- Programmes, and in keeping with the Ministry of Education's commitment to this area.
There should also be greater collaboration between the JCRC and other child-welfare advocacy NGOs with the NPACC, in order to increase advocacy for child welfare programmes and also to ensure that the NPA Year 2000 targets are continually in focus. There is still need for further fundamental reform in the delivery of these programmes and it will be essential to have greater dialogue between these organizations.
The JCRC should also consider developing a greater issue-based approach to child welfare advocacy, both in terms of its future research efforts and advocacy. In particular, the JCRC should focus on targeting key policy makers to solicit their support in effecting policy reform, and focus on issues affecting children, with a special emphasis in the area of children in especially difficult circumstances.
The Government needs to pay greater attention to, and also make a greater effort to, target budgetary allocations to programmes/projects aimed at bettering the lives of Street Children, Working Children, and Abused/Neglected Children
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