Funding Data for Development: Essential to Achieve SDGs

10/05/2017 04:41 am ET

By Ernesto M. Pernia (Secretary, National Economic and Development Authority, Philippines) Johannes Jütting (Manager, PARIS21)

An increase of merely 200 million in Official Development Assistance would enable developing countries to produce the data needed for measuring and monitoring the SDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have elicited much needed attention to the role of robust data and statistics to properly track global progress towards international development objectives. The just published 2017 Funding report by PARIS21, a global partnership supporting statistical systems in developing countries, shows an overall positive increasing trend in available resources, while reminding the international community that with a little more effort, much more could be achieved in producing the data needed to help governments make the right political decisions.

The most promising news coming from the 2017 report is the arrival of new actors in the field of development aid. Yet, gaps in human and financial resources remain and increased support for statistics to build the capacity of National Statistical Systems (NSSs) will be necessary to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

National Statistical Systems are at the heart of the current development agenda, and tracking the financial support for statistical development is key to understanding what donors are doing in the field and identify countries or areas of statistics in need of more support.

While worldwide global commitments to statistics have remained constant (with USD 541 million, compared to USD 544 million in the previous year, Figure 1), there are signs for considerable increases over the next 2-3 years due to the increased attention to data following the adoption of the indicator and monitoring framework of the SDGs.

Figure 1. Global Commitments to Statistics: total amounts by data source.

PRESS 2017, PARIS21

In terms of the regional distribution of commitments, more than two-thirds of the funds are going to Africa while only 10% to the Asia-Pacific region (Figure 2). A sensible increase in resources, in particular for data production in the poorer regions of the Asia-Pacific, such as the Pacific Islands, is necessary.

Figure 2. Commitment in 2015, by geographical region

PRESS 2017, PARIS21

The report also shares two new positive trends in aid for data and statistics. First, an increase in the percentage of official development assistance (ODA) allocated to data and statistics (Figure 3) which moved up from 0.25% in 2014 to 0.30% in 2015. This is promising news as a sign that statistics are moving up on the political agenda of donors. Second, the pool of donors supporting statistics expanded and diversified, buoyed by support from foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Figure 3. Share of Sectors on ODA, 2015, in USD

PRESS 2017, PARIS21

While the PRESS provides a high-level view of the top donors, recipients and areas of aid to statistics, countries are starting to assess the funding mechanisms for statistics at the national level.

In the Philippines, the government has for many years paid great attention to data and statistics to inform policy decisions. Hence, it is no wonder the Philippine statistical system has been a role model for developing countries with the National Statistician playing a leading role in international discussions. The medium-term expenditure framework recommends the resource requirements of the Philippine Statistical System and documents its alignment with the national development plan.

However, in the Philippines resources could still be raised, as shown by a recent report on the funding of the national statistical system from domestic and external resources. Findings from the 2016 Philippine CRESS reveal that government agency budgets for statistics totalled PhP 10.6 billion for the period 2012-2014, corresponding to only 1.6% of the agencies’ total budgets and 0.17% of the national government budget. More recently, figures from the General Appropriations Act of the Philippines reflects a moderate increase in the budget levels of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for 2015 to 2017, from PhP 2.999 billion in 2015 (which excludes the PhP 1.952 billion budget allocation for the 2015 Census of Population) to PhP 3.369 billion in 2017. As a proportion of the total Philippine government budget, the PSA budget accounted for 0.19% in 2015 and 0.10% in 2017. While there are improvements in budget for statistics, particularly for the PSA, there is still need for increased and sustained domestic support for statistics throughout the country.

The Philippines and other developing countries have much to gain from increased financial support from both domestic and international resources. The 2017 PRESS highlights a USD 200 million annual funding gap from international donors to least developed countries which will need to be complemented with these domestic resources for any chance of attaining the SDG objectives. How can this be done concretely? The report highlights a few solutions. Introducing a marker for ODA to measure commitments towards the development of the data sector and improve monitoring of aid to statistics can be extremely useful. Also, advising countries to create a specific budget line dedicated to their national statistical system can help emphasise the importance of domestic support.

Overall, greater emphasis needs to be placed on providing more relevant and sustainable capacity development on statistics to better respond to the increasingly complex needs of the sector. In the future, more and better-quality financial support to data and statistics will be critical to ensure robust SDG measurement and monitoring at the national level. This would greatly help us achieve one of the principle tenets of the SDGs: ensuring that no one is left behind.

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