Big spending for the MDGs

A classroom in Lesotho. Despite exceeding its average spending commitment on education, the sub-Saharan country remains a "laggard" in ONE's MDG Progress Index. Photo by: Fihliwe / CC BY-SA

A boost in domestic spending can yield huge development gains for countries aiming to make it to the MDG finish line in 2015, though not in all cases, advocacy group ONE shows in a new report.

In 2010, countries in sub-Saharan Africa spent an average total of $29.6 billion and $43.3 billion on health and education, respectively. This dwarfed donor aid flows to both sectors, which topped $7.5 million and $3.6 million for health and education in the same period.

Interestingly, some of the big spenders have recorded huge progress in the MDGs.

Rwanda and Malawi, among the so-called “trailblazers” after topping ONE’s 2013 MDG Progress Index among sub-Saharan countries, have both exceeded their Abuja commitments of spending 15 percent of their government budget on health.

This is however not the same for Lesotho.

Despite meeting its Dakar commitment to spend 7 percent of GDP on education by 2005, and 9 percent by 2010, the tiny mountain kingdom enclosed by South Africa remains one of the “laggards” in the index. The country’s overall MDG progress has declined in recent years, and yet it was the only sub-Saharan country to have exceeded on average such spending commitment on education.

If these countries had met their spending commitments, the report notes there will an available $135 billion, $40 billion and $68 billion for education, agriculture and health between now and 2015.

As the international community looks into crafting the next set of development goals, the report argues the world should not “lose sight of current targets in our rush to create new ones.”

ONE recommends both donor and country governments to meet their funding commitments and support multilateral programs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, present clear plans on how they aim to meet the MDGs in the remaining 1,000 days and improve service delivery quality.

Another important note is for governments to boost their aid transparency. For instance, many sub-Saharan countries agricultural spending were not included in the report for data unavailability, and it was also not clear what government activities are under “agriculture spending.”

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.