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January 12, 2018

Gender Budgeting in Central America


Posted by Virginia Alonso Albarran[1]

The IMF’s Technical Assistance Center for Central American Countries and the Dominican Republic (CAPTAC-DR), and the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD) organized a seminar on Gender Budgeting in Costa Rica in December 2017.

More than 20 representatives from seven countries participated (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama). The seminar was conducted by FAD together with experts from UN Women, Mexico and Spain. The country participants were mainly technical staff of the budget directorates and, for Costa Rica, also from the Women’s Institute.

The seminar was interactive, with deliberations focused on key issues. There were several presentations from the country participants and experts as well as group exercises which stimulated the discussion.

FAD made a presentation focused on a recent paper by the IMF on Gender Budgeting in the G7 countries.[2] The case of Austria – where the government has developed a comprehensive PFM strategy to support gender equality – was cited as best practice. The analytical framework used in the IMF paper guided the discussion of practices in the CAPTAC-DR region.

The seven countries made presentations on their gender budgeting experiences and their plans for the future. Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua are the most advanced in applying gender-related issues to budget formulation, and to the classification of the budget. Continued efforts are expected in 2018 in Honduras and El Salvador as they start implementing performance-based budgeting. Costa Rica and Panama also indicated their commitment to make efforts in this area.

The UN Women’s regional office for the Americas and the Caribbean shared their experience of gender budgeting in Latin-American countries - such as Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru – where the office has provided assistance since 2000. Mexico has been the pioneer in the region since the late 1990s. Information on gender-related issues is presented in an Annex to the Budget Law, and in quarterly and annual reports. In-depth gender-based audits are carried out, and the legislature is heavily involved in debating gender-related budget issues. Finally, the presentation on the Spanish experience focused on examples of gender impact assessments, and the use of outcome and output indicators.

The main takeaways from the seminar were as follows:

  • The budget is the key link between gender policies and their implementation. Goals of equality for women in labor participation, wages, education, and the elimination of stereotypes and violence need positive action from governments to reduce the gender gaps. These policies need to be reflected in budgetary allocations.
  • Political support and an enabling legal framework are needed if gender equality policies are to be effective. Institutions such as the ministry of finance, as leader of the process, and ministries of planning and women, as well as the legislature and civil society groups are especially important players.
  • National development planning instruments and medium-term budget frameworks should take into consideration the gender impact of government policies and projects. The development of program- and performance-based budgeting can also be helpful.
  • The budget classification should be adjusted to tag gender-related activities along the budget lines. This means going beyond only identifying the spending programs directly related to the reduction of gender inequalities. IT systems can be helpful in supporting the development of gender-related financial reports. In any case, the quality of the data on gender budget collected by line ministries should be validated by the ministry of finance.
  • Gender impact assessments can take different forms, quantitative or qualitative. They should be used to assess the direct and indirect impact of new policies. Nevertheless, participants highlighted the practical challenges of carrying out these assessments in their countries. Further work is needed to establish a common methodology, and to build analytical capacity.
  • The impact of tax policies on gender equality is equally important as the analysis of expenditure policies. Participants noted, however, that the gender impact of tax policies is not systematically considered in their countries.
  • Monitoring and evaluation was mentioned as a big challenge by all the countries. Gender-specific data and indicators should be used in governments’ reporting and accountability frameworks. But their systematic use requires resources and political support if these data are to be mainstreamed into budget decisions.
  • Coordination (or lack of it) was highlighted as another big issue. Gender units in line ministries can help overcome challenges in budget preparation, enhanced coordination with the ministry of finance, and capacity development. Some countries (e.g., Mexico and Guatemala) have already put gender units in place.

A useful network for peer learning on improving budget institutions has been created in the region. The following link includes additional information on the seminar and the presentations: Presupuestación con enfoque de género

[1] Senior Economist, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF.

[2] https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2017/05/12/pp041917gender-budgeting-in-g7-countries

Note: The posts on the IMF PFM Blog should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy.


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