Beirut, 6 December 2019 (ESCWA)--ESCWA today discussed how public expenditures can be better targeted to achieve social development priorities, using the recently launched Social Expenditure Monitor (SEM) that seeks to align thinking on social policy interventions with national budgets and macroeconomic policy.
The workshop held at the UN House in Beirut gathered experts from the region to review a discussion paper on SEM and invite Arab States that have not yet done so to adopt it.
“When public budgets are stretched and several countries are facing high debt sustainability challenges, current expenditure management is unsustainable and will not lead to meeting the aspirations of people and accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Mohamed El Hacene, Director of the Economic Development and Integration Division at ESCWA, in his opening statement.
The SEM provides a comprehensive measure of public social expenditure in seven areas: (1) education; (2) health and nutrition; (3) housing and community amenities; (4) labour market interventions and employment generation; (5) social protection and food security; (6) arts, culture and sports; and (7) environment protection.
“Social spending was one of the causes of the revolution in the Sudan due to the lack of support in education, health and social services, among others,” underscored Nadia Fadol, Director General of the Ministry of Finance in Sudan. “Economic reforms after the revolution have increased social spending, such as cash assistance to poor families, and increased salaries for workers in the country,” she added.
“The tool is flexible to be tailored to your respective national contexts,” El Hacene stressed. “Our sincere hope is that the SEM project will assist ESCWA member States in re-examining, rethinking and reallocating their social expenditure in ways that improve the welfare of societies and advance the SDGs, so as to leave no one behind,” he concluded.
A digital platform on SEM that will provide easy access to the tool is under production and will be followed by national workshops and trainings designed to build the capacity of various stakeholders to use SEM for analysing budgeting and policy reforms.
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