This research was carried out in the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP),
India. Like other Indian states, AP has agreed to devolve functions and
responsibilities to local bodies. However, analysis of this process
suggests that the decentralisation has been only partial, with most
policies still being set by the state rather than by local governments.
The objective of this paper is to assess whether the government of AP is
giving sufficient priority to investment in children at the state and
the sub-state levels, through both rural and urban local bodies, to
ensure improved outcomes for children. The research therefore sets out
to examine the mechanisms in place within this decentralised structure
to enable greater and better-quality spending on children, with a
particular focus on rural bodies or panchayat raj institutions (PRIs).
PRIs make up the three-tiered elected structure of rural governance
which, as a result of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1994, is
meant to provide new avenues of political participation by including
representatives from different sections of society (backward castes,
Scheduled Castes [SCs], Scheduled Tribes [STs] and women) in
decision-making bodies at the local level.
The initial premise of the present study was that the decentralised
planning process in PRIs, particularly with the inclusion of women as
elected representatives, might encourage greater prioritisation of
children's needs in planning and budgeting decisions at the local
level. However, the research found that this was seldom the case. Even
though the focus was more on rural local bodies, findings were also
drawn from two urban bodies, in order to build a more comprehensive
picture of the visibility of children in budgets and spending.
In trying to understand how budget outlays can lead to positive outcomes
for child wellbeing, it is essential to understand the mediating factors
that constrain or facilitate service delivery. Therefore, in assessing
resource flows to local bodies, the role and commitment of various
government officers and elected representatives within the PRI structure
in relation to decisions about spending on child-focused services and
improving the implementation of schemes was briefly examined. This will
help in assessing the potential for improving spending on children at
the local level in response to locally identified needs.
This paper is structured as follows: Following the introduction, Section
2 examines the theoretical background underpinning the field research.
Firstly, the rationale for undertaking local level budget analysis is
considered; secondly, some of the realities of decentralisation in AP
are examined; and thirdly, the possible spaces available at the local
level to ensure that children's needs receive adequate attention in
budgets are investigated. Section 3 describes the research methodology
used, while Section 4 explores key findings in the light of the
theoretical background. The last section draws out the conclusions and
some policy recommendations that could help to raise the priority level
accorded to investment in children at the substate level in AP with the
aim of achieving better outcomes for children, particularly for the
Young Lives, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK/UNICEF, 33 pp
Improving child-focused spending in local bodies in Andhra Pradesh. Constraints and Opportunities. UNICEF/Young Lives Social Policy Paper 003