Financing the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs

Over the last 9 or so months the Government Spending Watch (GSW) research team have been hard at work compiling and uploading new data into the GSW database – and today we’re launching that new data, alongside a report analysing what the latest MDG trends signify for future government financing around the new SDGs.

New GSW online data & database features

Compiling the data set required a lengthy exercise of investigative data-gathering, from public and semi-public budget-related documents, to identify MDG spending (and when we’re not sure about data, we’re ruthless about excluding it).

After all these months of painstaking work by the team, this new data has now been uploaded onto our online, free, open source database for all to use (for the years 2012-14). We’ve also added some new countries to our database – part of the ongoing focus and ambition of GSW to get as many low and middle income countries online. After starting with a handful of countries way back in 2009, and launching our online database in 2013 with 52 countries, we now have 67 low- and middle-income countries live on the new website (for more information on which see map here).

Over 2015 we’re going to be adding in more countries, and, of course, continuing to re-fresh our data when the latest budget years become available (in fact we’re already starting uploading some of the latest figures for 2015-16 budget years). We’ve also added new functions to the online database so that countries can be compared in their spending patterns and different sectors.

Lastly, we’ve also added in data for each country on how much countries are spending on non-MDG areas (or, as we’re calling them ‘less desirable’ spending) on debt and defence. At present this data is limited to 2013 planned spending – but we’re going to be adding in more in future. We’ve added this feature because we’re acutely aware that both debt and defence spending can detract from the government spending on MDG sectors. For more information on GSW sources and definitions for data-gathering go here

New report and analysis

All of this new data has given us the most up-to-date, comparable and comprehensive government spending analysis available across six MDG areas. This is a valuable insight as the world undertakes the complex final negotiations around the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and the Financing for Development agenda (FfD).

Hence we are also launching a new report – Financing the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs – packed with all the latest analysis. The report, along with the new data-sets, are timed to coincide with the current negotiations taking place in New York to discuss the FfD agenda in the run-up to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa later in the year. The report takes a look at whether current spending trends will suffice to achieve the SDGs: examines how spending has been funded since 2008, and what needs to change in FfD: identifies what needs to be done to ensure government spending combats inequality; and finally assesses how ready countries (and the international community) are to track SDG spending, and to hold governments and funders accountable for its levels and results.

The report is jam-packed with analysis, and we’ll be blogging and examining some of this in more detail in the coming weeks. But the main lessons to be drawn of relevance to current negotiations happening in New York on the FfD agenda are:

  • Government spending is falling one third short of MDG needs – exacerbating slow progress on some of the goals.
  • The SDGs will require at least US$1.5 trillion extra in public financing annually – meaning a total of US$22.5 trillion in $additional finance will need to be mobilised over the lifetime of the SDGs.
  • The report recommends that this can be financing through a three-pronged FfD approach:
  1. Doubling tax revenue, by radically overhauling global tax rules
  2. Doubling concessional development cooperation, and improving its allocation and effectiveness
  3. Raising US$500 billion in public innovative financing. In addition, all spending must be dramatically reoriented to fight inequality, and be much more transparent and accountable to the world’s citizens.
  • The report concludes by warning that if these measures are not taken, the SDGs may well be dead at birth.

For more information, or to download a copy of the report – go here

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