By Howard Freeman

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UNESCO professional staff were invited to fill in a questionnaire capturing their assessment of national budget plans. Unfortunately, the methodology was not conducive to accurate reporting of budget information, spending plans or impacts of the financial crisis. UNESCO has acknowledged the need for more rigorous and timely collection of current-year budget data (UNESCO, 2009b). 26 The challenge facing policy-makers today is to avoid repeating the experience of past crises. As the effects of the economic downturn are transmitted to more households, those lacking the resources to cope with the shock risk being pushed into a downward spiral.

Public spending cuts, or caps that are set below planned levels, will ultimately translate into fewer classrooms built, fewer teachers recruited and trained, and more children out of school. Current monitoring exercises do not adequately track budget decision-making processes. International data provide comprehensive cross-country coverage of public spending, but with a significant delay. For example, this year’s Report documents expenditure for 2007. While vital for monitoring broad post-Dakar trends, such information reveals nothing about the direction of the public spending plans that will define the future.

Meanwhile, pressures to increase spending arise from several sources, including the need to finance social protection programmes. The combination of limited fiscal space and revenue decline has the potential to translate into painful public spending adjustments, including in education. 6 4. , 2009). 5. The countries are those classified by the World Bank as ‘IDA-only’: eligible only for concessional International Development Association loans. Hence the list includes Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Djibouti, even though the latest World Bank data put them in the lower middle income category.

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