Regional Workshop on Social Expenditure Monitor for Arab States
The ability to target public expenditure in accord with social development priorities and macro-fiscal sustainability remains a challenge for most governments of the region today. The absence of a comprehensive public social expenditure monitor often results in inefficiency in budget allocation to support multiple and overlapping social programs or policies and the allocations often mis-match or they are inadequate to meeting the needs toward achieving the SDGs. Given the pressure on public budgets across countries in the region, continuing with such expenditure management tends to be unsustainable.
A comprehensive monitoring of public social expenditure would improve allocative efficiency and effectiveness of budgeting as well as it will be an enabling tool to rationalize expenditure components toward achieving different objectives, including delivering quality public services and “social investments” that promote inclusive development, social stability, enhance economic growth and revenues over time. A right mix of expenditure is important to drive the economy and society toward achieving the SDGs, not just higher levels of social expenditure, as emphasized in the ESCWA report (2017) on Rethinking Fiscal Policy for the Arab Region.
Following keen interests from member States about assessing social expenditure in a more comprehensive way, ESCWA is supporting their efforts to establish a “Social Expenditure Monitor (SEM): An Integrated Framework for Supporting Macro-Fiscal Policies and the SDGs”. Setting a comprehensive social expenditure monitor framework is a first step to proceed to data mapping.
Given this background, the workshop aimed to provide an overview of the concept of social expenditure and presented the ESCWA framework of Social Expenditure Monitor (SEM). The discussions focused on its usefulness and application to potential budget and policy reforms in the context of improving allocative efficiency and effectiveness of budgeting toward achieving the SDGs. In the workshop sessions, discussions around relevance of budget data for the SEM, mapping dimensions and indicators of SEM into national budgets, identifying challenges and possibilities of filling data gaps took place. In addition, feedback from participants on tailoring and implementing the SEM in each national context was provided.