Social Spending in South Asia

An overview of government expenditure on health, education and social assistance




This comparative study identifies trends, challenges and opportunities related to government spending on social services in South Asia. It finds that, as a region, South Asia spends less on these social services (in terms of share of GDP) than other regions. High out-of-pocket spending on health places a burden on households in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, while government participation in health care spending is considerably higher in Bhutan and the Maldives. Spending on education as share of GDP is overall low, but this sector tends to receive the highest shares of public spending on social services in the region. However, countries with similar spending in this sector show different education outcomes, as is the case with Afghanistan and the Maldives. Social assistance in the region leaves large segments of the population uncovered, with India, Nepal and the Maldives being the only countries spending mor than 1 per cent of their GDP on this sector. Fiscal consolidation, reprioritisation of expenditure and complementary governance measures should be prioritised.

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Carolina Bloch
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