Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month we are spotlighting Andrea Larios, a researcher for Fundar in Mexico.
1. Give us a brief detail of your name, the organization you work at and what you do?
My name is Andrea Larios, I work at Fundar as a researcher for the Fiscal Justice Program. The focus of my work relies mainly on public expenditure and its impacts on human rights, gender equality and social justice.
2. What is the relationship between deviating from a country’s approved budget and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? In other words, how does budget credibility affect a country’s progress on these goals?
When the federal budget is approved, resources are allocated towards different objectives. However, as the fiscal year goes by, reallocations are made and, in some cases, resources are over or under spent. Underspending makes it difficult to achieve the SDGs, as in many cases we see budget cuts affecting social services that can propel progress towards these goals. As we know, the budget is the most concrete display of a government’s priorities, and in absence of budget credibility, the achievement of goals, specifically the SDGs, becomes harder to obtain. Furthermore, budget credibility is not a topic that is discussed enough in public debates in Mexico.
3. How is the Mexican government prioritizing resource allocations to accelerate progress on the SDGs? And in what ways is it missing the mark?
Mexico’s Federal government is not prioritizing resource allocations towards SDGs, except on social protection. There are specific sectors that are constantly under spent and face consistent budget cuts. This raises concerns about the government’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda. In the health and education sectors, the government’s level of spending is below internationally recommended standards. There is an underinvestment of resources towards achieving gender equity goals and no clear methodology in place to attain them. Resources directed towards environmental protection have also been consistently falling since 2019.
4. Which sectors in Mexico’s economy routinely underspend and why is underspending a concern for reaching SDG milestones?
Society expects that when a public budget is approved, it is executed in a timely and appropriate manner. However, governments do not always comply with this by over or under spending. Underspending can cause delays in the achievement of goals as the delivery of public services and goods, as well as investments, is insufficient and not effective. When previously approved funds are not fully spent, the effectiveness of public programs and projects diminishes. Furthermore, government’s does not explain why these deviations take place. In Mexico, there has been recent underspending in food and agriculture and environmental protection. And while underspending for health, social protection, and water and sanitation is not the norm, it happened in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted spending patterns in Mexico, particularly when it comes to social protection?
The government outlined its economic plan to face the pandemic in 2020, and in it, austerity measures were put in place. This led to resources being taken from some sectors to increase the budget of others that the government considered more strategically important. Across the sectors we have examined, budget deviations were mostly found in health, social protection, environment and water and sanitation.: While resources were increased for health, water and sanitation, the environment suffered budget cuts, as did social protection. Underspending in social protection stands out as it happened amid the peak of the pandemic in 2020, a year in which household income dropped drastically and millions of people lost their jobs. This was counterintuitive and had a negative effect on the well-being of individuals and the economy as a whole and may have influenced the increase in the number of people living in poverty that year.
6. What has the Mexican government done to affirm its commitment to achieving the SDGs? And what more can it do?
While Mexico’s government has outlined its commitment towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda through reforming the country’s Planning Law and the creation of documents and strategies to implement the agenda, in practice, it won’t be so easy to achieve. Public expenditure data, socioeconomic indicators and advances per SDG show that the allocation of resources towards the sectors that are aligned to SDGs has been insufficient, particularly in education, health and the environment. Mexico’s administration still has work to do to achieve the goals in the 2030 Agenda, including:
- The government should explain budget reallocations to prove its commitment to transparency and accountability
- Public debate around budget credibility and its impact on achieving SDGs should first focus on the need for progressive fiscal reform that enables the federal government to collect enough tax income to support the operation of public and social programs directly related to SDGs
- Improve transparency and data access related to programs and SDGs, specifically on the public database that links SDGs with public programs but does not disclose budget allocations per SDG.