Get to grips with gender budgeting, global finance ministries told

25 Sep 18

Finance ministries around the world are still not getting to grips with reducing gender inequality through budging, CIPFA’s international conference heard.

Ileana Steccolini, accounting and finance professor at Newcastle University, told delegates at the event in Abu Dhabi on Sunday gender budgeting has not been mainstreamed yet and “inequality remains a challenge to most countries”.

Although the idea of allocating public funds to reduce inequalities between men and women has been “proposed for a very long time” – around 30 years – Steccolini noted there is still no internationally recognised standards for gender budgeting.

The Newcastle University academic said as there were no gender budgeting rules for ministries to follow, this made it harder to mainstream.

Herdís Sólborg Haraldsdóttir, head of division of the Department of Fiscal Affairs in the Icelandic Finance Ministry and chair of the OECD gender budgeting experts committee, described gender budgeting as a “great tool”.

“It’s about doing what you’re already doing [budgeting], just a little bit better,” she told delegates.

But she explained it was still not being done correctly.

“We [finance professionals] rely too much on the data – and the wrong kind,” she said.

“Instead of focusing on the social aspects, we are just looking at numbers. Focus on the right things instead of counting some nonsense,” she urged finance ministries.

But Simon Gill , ODI acting managing director, warned countries not rush into gender budgeting as some still needed to “get the basics right”.

“We are not good at budgeting at the moment and by not being good at budgeting we are not releasing the potential of about 50% of our population,” he said.

“It should be about good budgeting. And a good budget should be gender sensitive budget, and environmentally sensitive and a lot of other things – but that is what we should be striving for.”

Gender budgeting can be done at both national and local levels.

A number of countries have implemented gender-responsive budgeting, including Canada, Iceland and India, and international institutions, like the OECD and World Bank, have increasingly been promoting the process in recent years.

Figures from the McKinsey Global Institute think-tank suggested $12trn could be added to global GDP in 2025 if countries just matched the “best gender practice” in their region. 

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