25 March 2019

UNICEF on budget speech 2019

A nation’s budget is one of the most important policies for the country’s children. It is through the budget that the financial means necessary for the fulfilment of the rights of all children are allocated. Since the way in which Governments use public funds matters enormously to children, UNICEF Sri Lanka is engaged in budget analyses,…, WASH, The Government proposes Rs. 4,000 Mn for the provision of sanitation facilities to 260,000 houses (approximately one million individuals) that currently do not have sanitation facilities. This is very encouraging as proper sanitation is important for health and survival, especially for children, who are amongst the most vulnerable to diseases.…, HEALTH, In the pursuit of a healthy society, the Government highlighted allocations of large sums of funds for infrastructure (Rs. 24,750 Mn), primary health care units (Rs. 1,625 Mn), ambulance services (Rs. 200 Mn), CKDu (Rs. 550 Mn), Rabies control (100 Mn), Non – communicable diseases (Rs. 50 Mn), and sports development (Rs. 4,200 Mn). As the…, EDUCATION, To build a knowledge driven skilled society and ensure 13 years of education to all students, the Government highlights investments in improving infrastructure (Rs. 32,000 Mn), in-service teacher training (Rs. 100 Mn), curricula modernization, shifting the focus from rote learning to more analytical and creative learning, as well as promotion of…, DISABILITIES, It is encouraging to see Government’s attention to the rights and needs of differently-abled persons. The budget proposes to increase the monthly allowance differently-abled individuals currently receive from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 and to expand funding in order to eliminate the waiting list of eligible low-income individuals, or almost 72,000…, SOCIAL PROTECTION, The focus on strengthening the social safety net is also very welcomed, since despite the impressive and steady progress in poverty reduction and human development over the past decades, significant socioeconomic inequalities exist (with large pockets of left-behind poor, especially in the Estate and remote rural areas). About four percent of Sri…, WOMEN EMPOWERMENT, The budget places a lot of emphasis on supporting women and mothers to enter and continue in the labour force. The encouraging of the provision of child-care facilities by commercial establishments with more than 250 employees through concessionary loans schemes, and of After-School and Vacation Centers within selected schools, are constructive…, HOUSING, The housing needs of the most vulnerable sectors of society was also highlighted in the budget. Rs. 24,5000 Mn has been allocated for the provision of better housing to low income groups in Urban, Rural and Estate sectors and the North and the East. It is well-known that poor housing conditions, including a lack of water and sanitation, can have…, NATURAL DISASTERS, The impacts that natural disasters have in the lives and livelihoods of Sri Lankans was also highlighted. Droughts and floods result in “the loss of life, loss of income and property” (Paragraph 170). The budget allocates Rs. 20,000 Mn to a Disaster Management Contingency Fund to mitigate such impacts. Further resources (Rs. 1,000 Mn) have been…, NUTRITION, Given the unacceptably high levels of persistent malnutrition in the country, it would have been encouraging to see the issue of nutrition receive prominence in the Budget Speech, which was not the case this year. Seventeen percent of children under five in Sri Lanka are chronically malnourished, having their physical and cognitive development…, EARLY CHILDHOOD, There is a mismatch between what the scientific and economic evidence shows and what is prioritized in the budget as it relates to education of young children. Globally, the highest rates of return have been found on investments in early childhood development and education, since the early years are the most crucial in terms of brain and cognitive…, CHILD PROTECTION, It would also be important for the Budget Speech to highlight adequate allocation of funds to allow for the implementation of the newly approved Alternative Care Policy for Children in Sri Lanka. Funds will allow for identification of risk-prone children, identification of appropriate alternative care systems in Sri Lanka, legal background of…, www.unicef.org/srilanka