Odisha Budget 2022-23 & SDGs

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Odisha had the first SDG budget in 2021-22 with an outlay of Rs 1,34,225 crore. SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) budget mainstreams the SDGs into state policy formulation, strategic and annual planning, budgeting, monitoring, reporting and evaluation processes. In 2021-22, the SDG budget of Odisha was linked to 16 goals, 98 targets, warranting inter-sectoral collaborations of about 40 departments. That was a good start to adapting systems and practices through which the executive, the legislature, finance/audit institutions, and the public are sensitised about the government’s SDG-related budget policies and implementation.  Let’s hope that the government was serious and continues to be so about delivering the SDGs. Hence the announcements of the localisation of SDGs must go beyond the high-level policy papers and connect the SDGs with the state budget mechanisms.

I expect that in 2022-23 Odisha would continue to follow the B4SDG (budgeting for SDG) approach, which will support  improvement of public expenditure effectiveness, efficiency, and equity pattern in delivering the SDGs. This would specifically help Odisha now, experiencing another COVID pandemic wave which is here to stay for the FY at least.

Consistency in B4SDG will most certainly  strengthen the state governance systems and usher in more comprehensive, structured, and measurable dimension to development goals, to assess public policies. Cooperation between ministries will improve, and so more coherent public policies will be implemented. For us, the civil society, better interactions between the targets will help complement different dimensions of sustainable development at the sub-state levels. A coherent approach is most needed at the panchayats today. The districts of Odisha are unevenly positioned due to their demographic, climatic and location-specific vulnerabilities. Specific socio-economic indicators continue to pose challenges. So an  increase in targeted investment, implementation of innovative projects and strengthening of the monitoring and evaluation efforts will be much better streamlined with the SDGs as central, guiding agenda.

In 2020-21, Goal 4 (pertaining to education) of the SDGs received the highest budgetary allocation. It was 16.8% of the total SDG plan, which was pegged at Rs 22,637.3 crore. This is the commitment of the state to tangible goals to meet the 2030 development agenda. In 2036, not far way, we complete 100 years as a modern state. The SDG budget would help make our development more targeted.  Hopefully, the schemes and welfare programmes for each department have been mapped and linked to the SDGs and their targets. It will be a challenge: while apportioning schemes and programmes to specific individual goals there could be areas of overlapping. Even though the programmes have their specified verticals, the impact would be comprehensive and the totality of the effectiveness matters. Different schemes necessarily would have different weightages and while assigning the goals these need to be taken up strategically taking into consideration regional disparities, preparedness of the communities, readiness of the government implementors and the available civil society partnerships.

Goal 4 and Goal 10 (reducing inequalities) are strongly linked. In 2022-23, Odisha should continue with its emphasis on Goal 4. Goal 4 has 10 targets and Odisha in 2021-22 allocated the highest resources for the first target, 4.1, to enhance free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education. Goal 10 aims at reducing inequalities. About 5-6 years before we complete 100 years, Odisha should be a frontrunning state in India by drastically reduced inequalities. This is a wish which can be fulfilled.

By 2030, if we ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes then their retention and continued education will almost guarantee equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education. This will lead to substantial increase in the number of youth and adults with relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for gainful employment and entrepreneurship. Gender disparities will be eliminated, and we can look at equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, PwDs, our underserved indigenous people and children in vulnerable socio-economic environment. These are the official lines of the Goals but when we implement these at the village level, the district authorities, the block, and panchayat leadership should be championing the interventions. If the sarpanch and the team do not understand the Goals, SDGs would not have any meaning. They would then be reduced to just platitudinous  jargons useful for only superficial presentations. In 2022-23, the state should make concerted efforts to rope in thinktanks to go from village to village and take up massive SDG sensitisation campaigns.

I am not sure how much the civil society organisations can help or are capable of helping the state machinery in localising the SDGs. The government (preferably the planning and convergence department) through a series of training programmes can do this with cascading effect, district to below district levels. Convergence between departments is desperately required.

In the upcoming budget, I would bat for equal or a little more thrust on Goal 4. In 2022-23, the programme expenditure component should be estimated at about 65% (10% higher than the last budget) and the administrative expenditure and other expenditure should constitute the rest. Administrative expenditure eats into the development investment-outcomes of our programmes. These include establishment, operations and maintenance expenditure. B4SDG are not readymade solutions but are formal commitments whose effects can be experienced by all of us both in the short-term and long-term. Some tools can be applied in isolation from others, others need an orchestrated effort throughout the whole Agenda-2030 timeframe. The department of School and Mass Education and department of Higher Education would be of critical importance and should be helmed by agile and creative leadership. They should not be baulking at PPPs and other modes of collaborations with non-government agencies and institutions.

Goal 4 is aimed at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. Engagement of our youth inside the state will increase. Their industry fitment will provide for local employment. Our youth will internalise the development of the state. Currently they are not because their participation in the state’s social and economic ecosystem is low. We have to provide opportunities for greater involvement. This will reduce  inequalities and regional disparities. This comes under Goal 10. In 2021-22 Odisha made budgetary allocation of  20,721 crore towards Goal 10. This was the next highest allocation after Goal 4 and quite justifiably. However, Goal 10 need not be given such high allocation in 2022-23 because the majority of the allocation should not go to meet the pension and other retirement benefits. I can still understand the importance of social security and welfare components because the government would also be trying to accelerate welfare measures, preparing for the 2024 elections. One of the targets of Goal 10 is to “adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality by 2030.” This is almost tailormade to suit the electioneering preparations.

Odisha is a pioneer in SDG budgeting and should stick to it for at least three years to expect concrete results on the ground. But we need to localise SDGs, teach the general population about budget allocations and make youth participate in the expenditures. That reminds me that we should be asking for the actual expenditure done in 2021-22 against the allocations. That will help us colour code the pain points and get appropriately ready for the next financial year.

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