Financing Social Protection in the Light of International Spending Targets: A Public Sector Spending Review. Final Report.


This study explores the ‘affordability’ of development targets in six key sectors (health, education, water and sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure), by means of an empirical study examining sectoral expenditure in five low income case study countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda) and comparing them with target levels of expenditure set out in recent international agreements to which sub-Saharan governments are signatories. The study has a particular focus on social protection in response to growing government and donor interest in the affordability of provision in this sector. This approach is taken in order to assess the limitations of the current ‘silo’ approach to sector financing which characterises much of the development financing discourse, and which results in the abstraction of one sector from the broader fiscal whole, to the detriment of overall fiscal coherence and realism.

The report examines expenditure in 2006/ 2007 in relation to sector-specific international targets, assesses the shortfall, and then explores the fiscal feasibility of financing all six sectoral targets. The paper finds that meeting all the six targets simultaneously would require more than 100% of total government expenditure in four of the five case study countries, and 98% in the fifth, and that to meet these targets while retaining current levels of expenditure in other sectors would imply doubling current levels of government expenditure. Current funding for basic social protection provision is between 0.1% and 0.7% of GDP in the case study countries, compared to target expenditure levels of 4.5% to achieve the goals of the basic social protection component of the AU Social Policy Framework.

The report highlights the tension faced by governments between the need for good public financial management on the one hand, and the challenge of meeting international commitments on the other, raising the impossibility of meeting the key development spending targets simultaneously. Given the unavoidable overall financing shortfall, the key question becomes prioritisation of the use of existing resources, the opportunity cost of programming outside these sectors and non priority or ineffective use of resources within the sectors.


Final Project Report. ODI, London, UK. 93 pp.

Financing Social Protection in the Light of International Spending Targets: A Public Sector Spending Review. Final Report.

Published 1 January 2010