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Definitions and Sources


1) Overall expenditure

Data on overall expenditure for all countries is based on format laid out in the IMF Government Finance Statistics Manual 1986 (GFSM 1986). The use of the older GFSM 1986 standard, rather than the newer GFSM 2001 is because not all countries report based on GFSM 2001, but the vast majority report based on GFSM 1986. Therefore, under overall government expenditure the categories are;

Overall expenditure – total government expenditure and net lending

Type of Expenditure: this is broken down into:

  • Recurrent expenditure – all payments other than for capital assets, including on goods and services, (wages and salaries, employer contributions), interest payments, subsidies and transfers.

  • Capital expenditure – payments for acquisition of fixed capital assets, stock, land or intangible assets. A good example would be building of schools, hospitals or roads.However, it is important to note that much donor-funded “capital” expenditure, though referring to projects, includes spending on non-capital payments.

 Sources of funding: these are broken down into

  • Foreign grants – all non-repayable unrequited payments from governments or international organisations, including budget support, project grants or debt relief.

  • Net external finance – repayable Government financing transactions with non-resident individuals, enterprises, governments and international organisations. This includes short/long-term bonds, loans and any other liabilities.

  • Government revenue – includes government tax, non-tax revenue (property income, administration fees, fines) and capital revenue (sales of assets or stocks).

2) General definitions for all sectors

Under the various sectors GSW also breaks down expenditure by type and by source, using governments own budget related documents. The breakdown by type is the same as for overall expenditure (capital vs recurrent). However, the breakdown by source is different as follows:

Donor funded – the sum of grants and external finance disbursements. Typically this is only known for capital expenditure, as recurrent budget support expenditure is not normally classified by sector, although please see individual country pages for clarification. Only onbudget donor funding is included 

Government funded - this is the remaining amount of sector expenditure net of donor funded expenditure. This acts only as an initial estimate of government funded expenditure, as recurrent spending may include some elements of donor budget support.

3) Definitions of individual sector spending

Agriculture includes all general agriculture, including irrigation, fishery and livestock. Forestry is included in many countries, if it is contained in the same ministry budget as agriculture, and is therefore assumed to be linked to agricultural purposes. 

Education includes all on budget pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary education, as well as any adult learning programmes. In cases where an education component is linked to other sectors (medical schools attached to hospitals, or agriculture training institutions), this has been linked to those other sectors (please refer to individual country definitions).

Primary Education is a sub set of education expenditure, and in most countries also includes pre-primary expenditure.

Environment includes waste management, pollution abatement and the protection of biodiversity and landscapes. Where forestry expenditure is clearly linked to sustainable management this has also been included.

Gender includes any expenditure by agencies which are explicitly responsible for the empowerment and development of women and on gender issues, except social transfers.

Health includes all spending for the sector, from primary through to tertiary.

Social protection is often split across many agencies of government. Therefore we used specific guidelines to calculate spending levels. This meant excluding spending disbursed via other sectors, such as health, education and agriculture; as well as civil service pensions which are not specifically targeted at the poor. It included spending on employment programs targeted at the poor, food security (if clearly separated from agriculture), disaster mitigation/management, social transfers and other social security schemes. However, in a few cases it was not possible to remove civil service pensions from overall welfare spending, making expenditure much higher than in other countries. It is strongly advised to read the individual country definitions in relation to social protection expenditure.

Water and Sanitation includes the provision of water supply (including regulatory bodies), waste water management. Irrigation expenditure tends to be classified as agriculture expenditure, but there may be cases when this is impossible to take out of water budgets. Generally, water resource management, such as large dams and other infrastructure projects, is excluded. This is because such expenditure tends to not be targeted primarily at providing safe drinking water ( tends to focus on energy production). In some rare cases when it is possible to extract water resource management that is clearly and specifically targeted towards providing drinking water rather than the energy sector, this expenditure is counted. In other cases where it is impossible to disaggregate from overall spending this might be included.

Debt and Defence.  Debt and defence data are available for limited years, in order to allow users of the data to compare government spending on the MDGs to spending on debt service and defence. While analysing budgets, GSW researchers have identified a clear link between high levels of debt service and defence spending, and lower levels of MDG spending. We have therefore added in new data in 2014 to enable users of the GSW site to compare their governments spending against these “less desirable” areas of spending – enabling users to look at where their government may be spending on areas which are potentially “crowding out” MDG spend. However, this is currently limited in years, and it cannot be broken down in the same way as other data into type and sourced of funding.

Debt data sources & more information.  Data on debt servicing is sourced separately from the rest of GSW data. The data is ONLY available for planned 2013, and is not broken down recurrent/capital or government/donor. It is drawn from IMF LIC-Debt Sustainability Framework and MIC-Debt Sustainability Framework annexes, as well as other budget tables, in IMF staff country reports for 2014 and 2015.

Defence sources & more information. Data on defence spending is available for 44 GSW countries and is sourced separately from the rest of GSW data. Data for this was taken from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


The vast majority of data sourced by Government Spending Watch (GSW) are from governments themselves, mostly from published documents such as budgets, budget execution reports, or sectoral reports. Almost all sectoral data is from these sources apart from data on debt and defence (see below sector definitions for more information on this).

In most cases we have had to look beyond data which are publicly available on government websites and to assemble with the help of government officials, data which are public but not on the web. We are most grateful to them for their help.

For background data to calculate overall expenditures, GDP, exchange rates etc, we have used data from international organisations that have a direct relationship with government and their expenditure management. In particular;

  • IMF country reports

  • IMF world economic outlook (WEO) database - September 2012

  • World Bank BOOST data

  • World Bank data

Finally, GSW has in some instances, used information from external organisations, such as research institutes or NGOs (an example is The NGO Forum on Cambodia), where their data was verified as accurate, by assessing certain aspects of it with government or International financial institutions data.

For more detailed country-specific information on source documents, please see the first page of each country data excel download file.