21 October 2018

Tanzania: Why We Need Budget for Children

THREE days ago, a group of journalists from Kagera, Mwanza, Simiyu, Kigoma and Geita regions met in Mwanza for a workshop which discussed situation of children in Tanzania.

Organised by the Tanzania Editors' Forum and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the meeting specifically discussed public financing in children, and how the media could cover stories aimed at influencing budgets for the welfare of Tanzanian children.

We should recall that the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), both endorsed by Tanzania, obliged countries to invest resources in children.

Article 4 of the CRC and Article 5 of the ACRWC, in particular, require governments to invest "the maximum extent of available resources to realise the well-being of children."

At this juncture, adequate resources are needed to effectively implement Tanzania's Child Development Policy (1996), the Law on the Child Act (2009), the 2011 Children's Act for Zanzibar, and other child-related sectoral policies found in the National Strategies for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA) in Tanzania mainland and MKUZA in Zanzibar.

The question to ask ourselves is - Why do we need to lobby for budgeting for Children in our country? Although children make up a large proportion (about 51 per cent) of Tanzania's population, this group is powerless, and thus unable to advocate for a fair share of budget allocations and services. Good budget practices and the best interests of the child are usually inseparable.

While the financial cost of creating a more child-friendly society is often low, the social and economic benefits of ensuring that budgets reflect the best interests of the child are enormous.

Usually, childhood is a critical stage when the foundations are laid for a better life- and when deprivation can have irreversible consequences.

Given the exclusive and deeply political nature of the budget process, it is rare that budgets adequately address the needs of voiceless groups, such as children.

Child-friendly budget ensures that the national budget reflects child-friendly macroeconomic and social policies especially in rural Tanzania where living conditions are tough.

The child-friendly budget I am advocating for is usually implemented in a transparent and accountable manner, taking into consideration issues of efficiency and equity, especially in the case of vulnerable populations such as children.

A child-friendly budget provides adequate, progressively increasing budget allocations to sectors that impact children the most like education, health, water and sanitation and social protection.

A child-friendly budget is implemented in a transparent and accountable manner, taking into consideration issues of efficiency and equity.

In Tanzania today, policies and associated investments accelerate economic growth because high economic growth which is pro-poor translates into higher income for the people, benefitting families and children.

Strong growth also helps the government to increase its revenue, which can be used to increase child-related investments such as those needed to reduce maternal and infant mortality, reduce malnutrition, improve the quality of education and health services, and other similar initiatives.

Policies that promote low inflation because high inflation at times reduces the value of money usually push more people into poverty, including children.

We need policies that promote good fiscal practices (sound, transparent, accountable and participatory budget processes and reduced dependency on external financing), as well as strong monetary policies that avoid overvaluation of the local currency and promote investment and the export of goods and services.

The concept of 'child-friendly social policies' refers to policies that benefit children most, for example policies that support investments in quality education and health for all, at all levels of the education or health system (and promote equity by gender, geographical location, urban versus rural areas), as well as policies that protect children from child labour, all forms of abuse and harmful customs such as female genital mutilation and corporal punishment.

Government budgeting is a crucial process through which a government's financial resources are generated, prioritised, allocated, executed and controlled.

Budgets represent a key policy document that reveals how much money the government intends to raise, from whom, and how that money will be spent across sectors.

As such, the budget can be an extremely important instrument for advancing the survival, protection and development of children.

The government budget is similar to a household budget in many respects where the government has to address the same challenge of limited resources so often encountered by households.

Governments also have to make choices when setting spending priorities and children welfare should be considered here.

Briefly children budget is a financial proposal that directs the annual provision of public services and facilities, for example, funds to build school classrooms, build a road or a health centre or pay salaries of civil servants.

UNICEF and TEF deserve credit for championing children budget which shall eventually improve lives of children in terms of providing health and other key social services they need in their upbringing.


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