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Are we doing enough for our children from the budget?

20 November 2013 07:50 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Children are our future. They are the budding young leaders of tomorrow. Therefore it is imperative to protect and ensure the wellbeing of children. One action that can clearly demonstrate the extent of a government’s commitment towards fulfilling the rights of children is its allocation of financial resources for the benefit of children.

The first Child Centric Budget Analysis (CCBA) carried out by the Child Rights Advocacy Network (CRAN) in 2011 aimed to find out the financial resources that were allocated towards the wellbeing of children in Sri Lanka. The analysis was done under four key thematic areas which included education, health and nutrition, child development and protection. The study involved 19 ministries that allocated financial resources for programmes directly and indirectly benefitting children.



" We noticed a lack of proper utilisation of the resources as well. For the main part, even the allocated financial resources are under-utilised because of one thing that is the procedure to get the funds for projects is long and slow. In some cases no one even knows about the existence of funds so the resources lie stagnant without being used and are wasted  "



According to the CCBA, something close to Rs.80 billion has been spent annually on children from 2007 to 2009, while nearly Rs.90 billion has been the annual allocation from 2009 to 2011. However, the CCBA noted that the funds allocated for programmes directly benefitting the children was far less than these figures show.
The study found that in education, most of the resources are invested in secondary education and the conventional welfare programmes such as free uniforms, free textbooks, school nutritional food programmes and Grade 5 scholarships. In health, from the programmes specifically related to children, the bulk of the resources have been spent on the conventional ‘Thriposha’ programme and the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital.

However, one of the more worrying findings of the study had to do with the protection of children. The protection concerns of children in Sri Lanka has become an issue that has been recognised by both child-rights practitioners and policy makers as requiring urgent attention and systematic intervention. Even though there is a strong legal framework and further reforms in the pipeline,






the translation of these laws into policies and especially into practice is a perpetual concern.

Even though protection was one of the most important areas which needed attention, the CCBA found that it was nearly invisible with just about one per cent of the child centric budget being allocated to this area.

Programmes targeting children with special protection concerns such as children in conflict with the law, street children and the institutionalization of children and child victims of abuse are invisible. Investment on child psycho-emotional health and prevention of substance abuse among children were also not well-reflected in the budget. Furthermore, CCBA found that special education for children with disabilities also called for further attention.  

This is hardly surprising considering the fact that according to the CCBA, the Child Development and Women Empowerment Ministry receives a meagre 0.05 per cent of the total national budget.

Meanwhile, CCBA also revealed that there were salient regional differences in the instance of child protection concerns. The high occurrence of child abuse in rural, estate and coastal areas and the greater majority of working children in the rural sector highlight this finding.

According to Chathuri Jayasooriya, the lack of resources was not always the main reason for the inability to meet the needs of children and failure to address their issues.

“The biggest challenge we faced when we were conducting the CCBA was the lack of transparency in what was being allocated to the children, so it was even difficult for us to determine whether there were enough resources and what they were being utilised for” Ms. Jayasooriya said. “We observed that there are a substantial amount of funds available, but coordination among the different components need to be improved.”

“We discovered that the main problem was the ineffective use and the misallocation of the available resources. There is no proper assessment of the needs of children and therefore the fund allocations do not match the true needs of the children. Therefore children are not sufficiently visible in the budgetary process.”

“We noticed a lack of proper utilisation of the resources as well. For the main part, even the allocated financial resources are under-utilised because of one thing that is the procedure to get the funds for projects is long and slow. In some cases no one even knows about the existence of funds so the resources lie stagnant without being used and are wasted,” she added.

Ms. Jayasooriya said children occupied a low-priority standing in the political hierarchy of resource allocation and utilisation.

Based on the CCBA’s findings, she recommended that the resources allocated for the children should be used in a more efficient, more transparent and meaningful way, with the participation of the public in the budgetary process to fully benefit the children and meet their needs.

Due to the lobbying by the CRAN organisation, several parliamentarians are in the process of initiating the first ever Children’s Caucus in Sri Lanka to better coordinate and utilize the resources allocated for children, Ms. Jayasooriya added.

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