How proper budgeting will assist South Sudan’s SDG journey
Juba, South Sudan- The power point slides are filled with columns, numbers and percentages, a flash back to math classes for the many officers seated behind tables in the room with their gazes fixed at the screen. Macro, micro, credit, fiscal, debit, the words reveal that budget is the topic of the day. What has this to do with the SDGs? I’ll tell you in a bit.
The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the SDGs, is the plan the world has agreed upon for creating a peaceful world with prosperity for people and the planet. The plan is broken down into 17 sustainable development goals, which are an urgent call for action by all countries on the globe, as we share this planet and this world and therefore all have to contribute if we want to hand over a world in a better state to our children. The goals span from ending poverty to improving education and health and spur economic growth.
A man dressed in a white shirt and a tie is raising his hand. He works with the South Sudan Ministry of Finance in Central Equatoria State. The many years of conflict have deprived government employees in South Sudan of trainings and updates on the latest budgeting tools. Now, they have a lot of catching up to do and UNICEF and UNDP are assisting through a series of trainings.
“While the world of fiscal management moved forward, we stayed put where we last left off during the many years of conflict, “said Clement Peter Abe. He is Director General of the Ministry of Finance in Central Equatoria State. “We have to catch up with modern technology. Everything is now computerized, and we have staff who have never used one. Hence, these trainings are essential for us to get our budgeting skills up to standard.”
You might still wonder what the connection between budgeting and SDGs are and why the UN is involved? UNICEF’s and UNDP’s engagement are rooted in our core values and mandate, namely human rights and child rights. It is the states that are solemnly responsible for realizing human right and child rights, but it is the UN’s responsibility to assist states to help people. Too many people in South Sudan are deprived their fundamental rights due to social sectors being deprioritized. In in 2019/20 only 1% of public spending went to health, 5% to education and 2% to social and humanitarian affairs.
A new hand is up. A man in a tight-fit grey suit has a question related to the pie chart on the slide. Numbers, columns and percentages might seem boring to many, but strong public financial management and budgeting is critical effective use of public resources which is essential for social services. In an economy like South Sudan’s where money is limited and the needs are great, placing the money where is can benefit the most is a delicate task of outmost importance. The budgeting needs to be based on solid analyses on the impact of the allocations but also the consequences if the allotment is not made. The SDGs are guiding principles and name what should be areas of priority when the final budget is voted for.
Loud voices can be heard from where the morning tea is placed- a welcomed break in an intensive training session. When all the sessions have concluded, the public servant will form country transfer monitoring committees (CTMC) and their number one job will be to monitor the implementation of the budget on the country level- knowing they are accountable to the people of South Sudan who they are serving.
Even though the trainings are well received, there are still impediments they need to work around to ensure full implementation. Mr Lado Loku Legge , Deputy Director of Budget and Revenue at the Ministry of Finance in Central Equatoria State, explains: “We still have insecurity in our state which affects tax collection which then affects the total tax income and the transfers made to the social sector. We face the same problem when it comes to service provision. People can’t move freely without fear. Only when that is solved can we do full implementation of what we have learned in these trainings.”
The Ministry of Finance and Planning (MoFP), together with the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office, UNDP and UNICEF have established the Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund Programme to strengthen national and subnational public financial management (PFM) mechanisms in South Sudan with the aim of increasing budget allocations to social service sectors. The South Sudan National Development Strategy (NDS) aims to ensure that 15% of South Sudan’s National Budget are allocated to social services.
Originally published on UNICEF South Sudan