Inclusiveness is one of the salient features of the contemporary international development agenda, which means that nobody will be left behind in the development process. Gender is an important dimension of inclusive development.
Definition of GRB
Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) is a relatively new approach to government budgeting. GRB doesn’t mean preparing a separate budget for women. Neither does it mean a 50:50 allocation of resources for men and women. GRB means gender equitable allocation of resources.
As per the GRB concept, the budget is analysed from the perspective of gender. GRB endeavours to integrate a gender perspective in the budgeting process. The ultimate objective of GRB is to ensure gender equality. GRB is concerned with not only the expenditure side of the budget but also the generation of revenue through the tax system.
Why is GRB required?
Gender-based discrimination is a common phenomenon around the world that amounts to a violation of human rights. Women experience various issues such as lack of political representation, gender-based pay gaps in employment and access to resources, etc. Gender-based discrimination impedes the development process, as it is the general consensus that women empowerment is an integral part of development. The budget is one of the important public finance management tools, which estimates the revenue and expenses for a specific period of time, generally for a year. The government’s activities in economic and social spheres depend on the budgetary allocations. The government budget may ignore the gender-based disadvantages experienced by women unless due care is exercised.
According to the Gender Inequality Index, Sri Lanka was ranked in the 80th place in 2017, which is better when compared with other South Asian countries. Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women since 1981. The sustainable development goal No.05 is focused on achieving gender equality, where the importance of undertaking policy reforms to ensure women’s equal rights for economic resources, has been reiterated.
There are numerous advantages of GRB. For instance, GRB indicates a government’s commitment to achieve gender equality, improve accountability and transparency through monitoring, increase the effectiveness of public expenditure as gender-based analysis provides a basis for policymakers, etc.
The Beijing Declaration, which was adopted at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women, in 1995, recommends governments to analyse from the gender perspective, all policies and programmes related to macroeconomic stability, structural adjustment, taxation, investments, employment to assess whether there is any inequality.
Further, the Beijing Declaration mentioned governments should take actions to “Restructure and target the allocation of public expenditures to promote women’s economic opportunities and equal access to productive resources and to address the basic social, educational and health needs of women, particularly those living in poverty.”
GRB in practice
Budlender (2003) explained a five-step approach for GRB analysis as follows:
(a) Analysing the situation of women, men, girls and boys
(b)Assessing the gender responsiveness of policies
(c) Assessing budget allocations
(d) Monitoring spending and service delivery
(e) Assessing the outcomes
The above-mentioned five-step model has been used widely for GRB analysis. However, Budlender (2003), herself has admitted that there are some limitations of this five-step model. Generally, GRB involves a wide range of activities such as research, data analysis, monitoring, advocacy and sensitising, etc.
There are several instances that GRB has been applied successfully. For example, Budget 2019 offers tax concessions for the companies that grant three months of maternity leave and various other concessionary loans to provide day care facilities for children, thus encouraging women to remain in the labour force.
One of the main challenges in GRB is the availability of gender disaggregated data. Strong political will and active contribution of civil society are required for the success of GRB.
(Eranda Roshan Fernando, an economic policy researcher, can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org)