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What is Government Spending Watch?

Government Spending Watch (GSW) - a joint initiative by Development Finance International and Oxfam – tracks spending across a number of sectors, which relate to the commitments made by world leaders in 2015 when they agreed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Using internationally agreed financing targets, GSW tracks and publishes information across seven sectors related to the delivery of the SDGs: agriculture, education, environment, gender, health, social protection and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). We currently focus on tracking these sectors as they are the ones most proven to contribute to reducing poverty and inequality under SDGs 1 and 10, rather than the spending on large-scale industry or infrastructure. Over time we hope to add in other key sectors such as public housing and affordable clean energy.

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 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 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 (typically the current year’s budget) 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 are published either on this website or through analysis and reports, in order to help increase transparency and accountability. The complete GSW data sets have data available from 2008 through to 2016 - allowing tracking and analysis over time. However, due to database and funding constraints, only the most recent data - for the years 2014 to 2016 - are available on this website - 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 are published in reports and with partners. Our data are 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 these data in order to ensure maximum accountability impact from our data - do get in touch if you want to find out how we might work together.

What data are available through Government Spending Watch, and how are they compiled?

Currently, the GSW data-set covers 78 low- and middle-income countries (see map here for a list of countries), with another six countries to be added in 2017 from primary data. It covers seven SDG-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 SDG 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 are 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 SDGs.

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 2017. As the world is moving towards implementing the newly-agreed Sustainable Development Goals, our team will adapt the data hub to cover spending on the seven key sectors covered by the SDGs. We will also soon expand the database to cover 155 countries using secondary data which has been checked for comparability with GSW methodology.

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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.