|The budget from a gender perspective|
Infusing gender based policies into the budget, is a fresh concept that is yet to be embraced by a general political consensus or public consideration. However, it has entered the sphere of debate armed with some interesting revelations.
Recently Pathfinder, a research promoting organisation released a report advocating research in policies and activities in selected areas of governance to facilitate the policy makers. Integrating a gender perspective to the national budgetary process in Sri Lanka is the objective of this research exercise.
Several key areas
were taken under discussion with the health and education ministries, in
particular, being featured prominently among the suggestions. In a gender
specific budget, there would policies that target women in particular and place
projects that cause gender differentiation, which predictably would be
According to the
final report released by Pathfinder, the unavailability of gender based data,
centrally or regionally, is a major drawback and a challenge in an analysis of
the national budget in a gender perspective. In such circumstances, computation
of appropriate parameters to understand the consumption pattern of various
constituent components of population, and identification of beneficiaries is the
challenge at hand.
However, they have
taken the 2007 budget allocations into account, the proposed policies in the
upcoming budget and recurrent expenditure for education, health and agriculture
ministries. The report clearly states that, “the national budget of Sri Lanka
does not provide allocations separately for men and women because it is
presumably a gender neutral policy statement. Nevertheless, in certain
circumstances, it makes specific allocations targeting women, men and
The report cites
allocations for maternal and child care services, Pirivena education, Girl
Guide, Boy Scout organisations, as some examples. Yet, for a major part of the
budgetary allocations, there is a need to understand the objectives of the
allocations and the gender based consumption as well as beneficiary impact of
The gender issue
holds little water as female representation, at the decision making levels of
employment, in the Education Ministry as well as in the Departments of
Examinations and Publications, was quite low. The report notes that “at the very
senior level there was no female representation in all three
Less than one
percent (0.56 %) of the transfers budget were the 9260 handicapped students
provided through approximately 850 special education units in government schools
employing about 930. Approximately 25 special schools are assisted to provide
for the handicapped.
In the education
section, the report points out that in Sri Lanka there are 20,345 children who
have various types of handicaps. Approximately (54.1%) of female children were
affected by blindness and visual impairment, largely located in the Southern and
Uva Provinces. In all the other types of identified handicaps, the larger
percentage constituted of males. In the Southern and Uva provinces, a larger
proportion of mentally retarded, as well as those who had Down syndrome and
autistic children were found. Similarly, in Northern, Eastern and Uva provinces
there were a larger percentage of children with learning difficulties.
Additionally, except in the Western Province, a larger proportion of female
children had not been included in the specific handicap category.
recurrent expenditure for the Health Ministry in 2007, amounted to approximately
Rs.36,322 million, and has been estimated to increase to Rs.40,200 million in
2008. This allocation amounted to 6.1% of the government total recurrent
expenditure in 2007 and to 5.5% of the recurrent budget in 2008.
allocations for personnel emoluments (52%), medical supplies (33%), and
transfers (8%) comprised at least 90% of the total budget of the Ministry of
Health and Nutrition. At least 9,656 medical officers, including the
administrators and specialists, were employed in an array of hospitals varying
from the National Hospital Colombo to the peripheral units currently amounting
to 1,021 units. The gender distribution shows that, only a little more than 25%
of females were employed at the decision making level – the senior level of
employed. The proportion employed at the decision making level of various
departments, was even less, amounting to less than 5% of the total
Moving on, the
budgetary allocations for the Agriculture and Agrarian Services Ministry
amounted approximately to Rs.14,190 million last year and Rs.17,478 million in
2008 and constituted a little more than two percent of the total recurrent
expenditure for 2007 and 2008.
of the Ministry allocations were for development activity projects. In all the
institutions investigated, the female share of allocations and the beneficiary
impact was less than parity, or, very much less than that proportion. In the
Department of Export Agriculture, only a little more than a quarter of
allocations for development activity were consumed by the
approximately 21% of the total allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture was
for personnel emoluments. The allocation was reduced by 2% in 2008. The
reduction was for salaries and wages and for overtime and holiday payments and
other expenses. Nevertheless, there was an allocation for new recruitments in
the 2008 budget. The female share of employment was less than parity in all the
departments and the least percentage was observed in the Department of Export
Agriculture where only 28 % of employment was for females.
At least 77% of the
total allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Services was for
transfers. Approximately 88% of the transfers’ allocation was for development
subsidies and approximately 12 % for public institutions. Male farmers were the
better consumers of these subsidies.
impact of subsidies to farmers has been assumed to be gender neutral, which is
not achieved because of a lesser number of participatory farming women.
gender specific data is a major draw back in comprehending the impact of
budgetary allocations for men/women and girls and boys. It is proposed that
allocations should be made to collect gender specific data and maintain data
bases at the Ministry level, Provincial level and at the Central level. Every
project and programme should be made responsible to collect, collate, analyse
gender based data and use such data for project/programme planning of the
ministries. Even though the respective Ministries are in possession of rich
bases, there is a lack of interest in collecting, analysing and disseminating
gender based data.
At the project
planning stage, an independent body in the private or public sector may be
entrusted with the work of analysing and advising the Ministries on gender based
issues of the respective projects and programmes.
representation at the decision making levels of management and administration in
the Ministries investigated, need to be strengthened. Encourage and promote and
make avenues for increased female involvement in decision making positions.
The transfers, as
property loan to public servants in the line Ministries, were a substantial
portion of the allocation. The prevailing social conventions promote male
ownership of land. Promote female public servants to use this facility. The
gender based data has to be investigated to understand the gender inequality.
priority to school nutritional programmes than to the provision of school
uniforms. School uniform programme should be targeted to provide for children
coming from low income households.
target the budgetary transfers to individuals and households, as part of the
planning process, investigate the specific circumstances at provincial,
district, village level for non participation or unequal participation of girls
at the primary level, boys largely at the secondary levels and take remedial
action to ameliorate such set backs.
allocations for handicapped children; improve the beneficiary pattern by
targeting male/female children with various types of handicaps at the provincial
Focus production of
the female farmer on selected crops that have a comparative
Identify the most
suitable areas for the production of these crops and provide the necessary
infrastructure and support services for the female/male farmers in these
integration of crops and livestock and intensive mixed production systems among
Address reasons for
high morbidity/mortality levels of males of all ages in the following disease
categories where male death rate was much higher than that for female.
Hypertensive diseases, ischemic heart diseases, diseases of the respiratory
system, diseases of the digestive system, transport accidents, intentional self
harm, mental and behavioural disorders.
Target promotion of
nutrition and healthcare of infants, children and mothers through increasing
efficiency of preventive services. Specific allocations have been made in the
Health Ministry budget for maternal and child health through preventive as well
as curative health services.
Yet, there are
vital health problems among infants, pre-school children and pregnant women
which may be attributed to low socio-economic levels, high incidence of
preventable diseases, poor nutrition and inadequate child spacing. Take steps to
ensure better nutrition among children. Increase and popularise programmes for
improving nutritional status of mothers. Promote breast feeding practices as
malnutrition or under nutrition continues to be a major problem in Sri Lanka,
though an improvement has been recorded since 1993. In 2000, 13.5% of the
children under five years were stunted due to chronic malnutrition. The level of
under nutrition is reported to be higher in the estate sector.
to promote maternal nutrition can be launched by the Health Ministry preventive
services of family health workers and increased involvement of females in the
local food production promotion of the Agriculture Ministry.
impact of operational and developmental agricultural aims and objectives with
regard to transfer of development subsidies have been assumed to be gender
neutral. Nevertheless, gender neutrality is not achieved because of lesser
number of participatory farming women.
Take steps to
popularise and increase participation of farming women in the farming women
agricultural extension programmes and increase funding for such
The Bottom Line - Uditha Jayasinghe
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