Tax for Education: new study in Africa
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice’s regional network member in Africa, the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJN-A), just published a study focusing on government expenditure on children. Published with the support of Save the Children International, the study titled “Investments in Children. Evidence from Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia”.
The methodology adopted hinged on analysis of the general fiscal environment in each of the countries with a view to establish the extent to which public spending supports the policy intentions towards achievement of various rights for children.
"There is a growing consideration of children in budget expenditure in some African countries, as a result of positive response to recommendations by Non-State Actors", TJN-A explains. "Were it not that revenue that could be used to invest in children related activities was lost due to inappropriate tax systems, Africa could be a chapter ahead of this narrative”.
"For instance, in Zambia, approximately US$1.919 billion was lost between 2010 and 2012 due to IFFs which was more than 2.7 times more than the country spent on education and health combined in 2011, estimated at nine per cent (9%) of the country’s total GDP. Such losses ultimately result in governments collecting insufficient revenue to advance investments in children".
‘’Such unfortunate eventualities are the push behind TJNA’s endevours to challenge harmful tax policies and practices that on one hand facilitate illicit resource outflows and on the other hand favour the wealthy while aggravating perpetuating inequality’’ said Riva Jalipa, a Policy Lead at TJNA.
One of the critical findings is the notable upward growth in fiscal space in the sampled countries both from local and internationally mobilised resources for children. This is a positive move as it provides for scope to fund social services beneficial to children. Though the expanded fiscal space is positive news, there is also observed pattern in expansion in external debt. The study does not point to any conclusive evidence that the debt is necessarily more likely to improve service delivery to children.
There are also deliberate efforts to channel more resources to the sectors providing essential services to children. However, there is a lot of scope in improving the quality of budgeting. Full adoption of programme-based budgeting is still a policy gap. This makes expenditure tracking and aligning expenditures to results difficult.
For African governments to meet their commitmentsto invest in children, the study mainly recommends increasing revenue by expanding the tax base, curbing illicit financial flows (including harmful tax incentives and exemptions), and implementing progressive tax policies.