Argentina has made progress on transparency and accountability for public spending but still faces significant budget credibility challenges. For the 2018-2022 period, the total current budget had high levels of execution (between 87 and 98 percent), while the deviations between the initial and executed budget were considerable (exceeding 60 percent) in 2020 and 2022. This situation was similar in sectors such as Education, which saw steadily increasing deviations over the last half-decade, from between 2 and 6 percent in 2018 and 2019, to 35 percent in 2020, 28 percent in 2021, and 95 percent in 2022. Across the social sectors, recurrent spending deviations can undermine efforts by the Legislative Branch—through its annual budget—to guarantee fundamental rights and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Understanding the scope of Argentina’s budgetary challenges can also be complicated by inflation, which the government routinely underestimates, leading to considerable differences between planned expenditures and what the state ultimately has to spend at the end of the year. In any case, the 2020 and 2022 budgets were not even approved by Argentina’s Congress, and the country was governed with extension budgets during those years.
Argentina’s Voluntary National Review of the SDGs for 2022 indicates that the national government considers education the central axis of the social fabric and an equalizing instrument and generator of opportunities. Argentina incorporated the International Convention on the Rights of the Child into the National Constitution and enacted the National Law on the Comprehensive Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents (No. 26,061). Through these, the government committed to allocate resources to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents and ensure that these funds would never be less than that of previous years’ forecast or execution (arts. 5 and 72). Argentina also approved the National Education Law (No. 26,206), which established that the consolidated budget for education must be no less than six percent of the Gross Domestic Product and regulated the obligation to universalize educational services for four-year-old children. However, annual spending on education has not yet reached six percent. As such, educational coverage is not universal, showing significant disparities according to provinces.
This brief analyzes the credibility of Argentina’s education budget, taking as an example the Kindergarten Building Strengthening Program, which aims at reversing inequality in access to initial level schooling. This brief analyzes the reasons for budget deviations and makes recommendations to improve budget credibility and advance the achievement of SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
The study uses a mixed-method approach that includes reviews of budget documents and requests for public information. Expenditure datasets published by the Ministry of Economy on childhood and adolescence in the National Budget (with the tag NNA – Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes) were used. Data available on the Ministry of Economy’s Open Budget site were also used. For the analysis of the physical goals, both the data of Programming and Physical Execution and the Budget Law of each year were used. In the Physical Execution data it is possible to find systematized explanations about deviations, which were in turn compared with what was published in the Investment Accounts and in the Quarterly Monitoring Reports. Interviews with officials in the General Directorate of Infrastructure of the Ministry of Education were requested but were denied because a complaint was pending before the Agency for Access to National Public Information regarding the program analyzed in this report.
This publication is a part of Exploring the Connections between Budget Credibility and SDG Implementation.