Parliamentary public hearing calls for more effective public investment for children
SKOPJE, 10 February 2009: Parliamentarians, government officials, and civil society came together at a parliamentary public hearing to discuss the findings and recommendations of a UNICEF supported Child-Focused Public Expenditure Review. The report includes an analysis of the national budget process and expenditure decisions in heath, education and social protection. Reflecting on the findings of the report, participants at the hearing unanimously agreed on the need to boost spending in selected sectors and the need for interventions to improve overall public financial management.
In his opening address, UNICEF Representative, Sheldon Yett, highlighted, “policies that are not linked to budgets do not become priorities in implementation. Budgets that are not supported by a good system of governance will not lead to desired impact. An open, transparent process is required that reviews results, reports on results and makes adjustment in the light of new data”. He welcomed the increase in funding in the social sectors but emphasized the importance of well targeted financial interventions both within these sectors as well as to address the needs of the most vulnerable.
The Child Focused Public Expenditure Review revealed that despite the increase in overall resources in the education sector (5.6 percent of GDP in 2008), many of the funded policy measures and programme interventions do not address the root causes of poor educational outcomes. The study calls for boosting spending in early child development and redirecting investment to improve learning environments, both in terms of learning hours, teaching methods and curricula development.
The report also revealed that although nominal expenditure in preventive health programmes had increased almost four times (from 5.77 million Euro in 2003 to 29.45 million Euro in the budget for 2008) inadequate planning, monitoring and evaluation have resulted in funds not being spent effectively and failing to reach the specific population groups for which the programmes were intended.
The parliamentary public hearing was organised by the Parliamentary Commission for Equal Opportunities together with UNICEF to better understand the level of funding that is being allocated to policy measures and programmes for children.
In summarising the conclusions of the hearing the President of the Parliamentary Commission for Equal Opportunities, Ms. Liljana Popovska welcomed the report highlighting that it provided solid analysis and recommendations that can help the country improve linkages between accountabilities, planning and expenditures for children.
During the hearing a number of recommendations were agreed. Among them was a call for increased investment in achieving a minimum package of services for children, the need to strengthen capacities of ministries to apply result-based budgeting and improved data collection and analysis, as well as the need to ensure the participation of a broader group of actors in the debate and formulation of the budget and monitoring of its execution.
The Child Focused Public Expenditure Review is ‘a first step’ in a broader child-focused public financial management initiative that UNICEF is supporting. It aims to strengthen policy development and governance systems for investment in children; improve efficiency in the planning and use of public resources affecting children’s rights and ensure budget allocations are in line with established policy priorities.
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