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What is Government Spending Watch?

Government Spending Watch (GSW) - a joint initiative by Oxfam and Development Finance International – tracks spending across a number of sectors, which relate to the commitments made by world leaders in 2000 when they agreed to the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Using internationally agreed financing targets, GSW tracks and publishes information across seven sectors related to the delivery of the MDGs: agriculture, education, environment, gender, health, social protection and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). We track government spending in these areas, as this is central to ensuring the achievement of the MDGs (for more on the goals go here).

What's different about Government Spending Watch?

Government Spending Watch is the only global, comprehensive and up-to-date database on government spending on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Some organisations publish data tracking spending on one sector, but not all, and often this data has a delay of two years. This makes Government Spending Watch a truly unique resource. It offers comparable data on the latest spending across a number of sectors and multiple countries.

GSW exists because we believe that there is an urgent need for a much clearer picture of government spending, and for citizens, and their representatives in parliaments and civil society organisations, to have access to comprehensive and timely data, so that they can hold their governments to account.

The data is published either on this website or through analysis and reports, in order to help increase transparency, and accountability. There is data available from 2008 through to 2015 in the GSW data-sets -  allowing tracking over time. Currently, on this website, there is data for the years 2013 through to 2015, which is freely available - allowing the latest years to be accessed by everyone, for the most current and up-to-date picture in the public domain.

The rest of our data is published in reports and with partners. Our data is used by a range of different organisations, from the UN, through to national civil society organisations. Wherever possible we work with a range of other actors to analyse and publish this data, in order to ensure maximum accountability impact from our data - do get in touch if you want to find out how we might collaborate. 

What data is available through Government Spending Watch, and how is this compiled?

Currently, the GSW data-set covers 78 low- and middle-income countries (see map here for a list of countries). It covers seven MDG-related sectors: agriculture, education, environment, gender, health, social protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); as well as data on defence and debt service spending.

Compiling the data-set requires a lengthy exercise of investigative data-gathering, from public and semi-public budget-related documents. The transparency of documents and information on which to base this, can make identifying MDG spending very difficult, so we work with a network of government officials to interpret and classify data using a complex, consistent methodology, and ruthlessly excluding data where they are unclear.

Data are disaggregated by type of spending (recurrent vs investment), and source of funding (government vs donor). The data for the 78 countries on this site is presented in national currency, US$ equivalents, constant and current prices, as a percentage of GDP and total spending, and per capita. They can be viewed as graphs or tables, or downloaded in Excel as ‘raw-data’. More information on data sources can be accessed here.

What else is on this site?

GSW generates data which can contribute to evidence-based policy-making. The website contains a series of analytical research reports and briefings, some of which focus on specific sectors or regions. The aim of these is to help policymakers in governments and international institutions make the right decisions in allocating spending, by giving them clear analysis of spending trends, comparing them with other countries and the promises they have made, and analysing case studies in detail to show how spending has affected progress towards the MDGs.

The GSW website also contains a summary of set targets and promises made by governments, stories and videos on key campaigns which have increased spending and made a difference to the lives of citizens across the world, and links to global, regional and national coalitions working on increasing spending and transparency.

What does GSW intend to do in the future?

The GSW site will continue to grow in 2015, adding another 10 countries in 2015. From 2016 it will be adapted to cover spending on the newly-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the next 12 months, as the world moves towards implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals, our team is undertaking the gargantuan task of shifting out analysis to track the new goals around the seven keys sectors.

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The site is jointly sponsored by Development Finance International (DFI) and Oxfam. They aim to build a wider coalition of sponsors over time for this vital initiative. For more information on the sponsoring organizations, see www.development-finance.org and www.oxfam.org respectively.