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The way in which public funds are used to support sanitation can have widely diverging results in terms of provision of sustainable sanitation services, particularly in terms of effectiveness and equity.


(abstract and presentation only)

To test this hypothesis and learn about the most efficient ways to  allocate public finance to the sector, WaterAid commissioned Trémolet Consulting to conduct a study about public finance for sanitation in rural Thailand, rural Bihar under the Total Sanitation Campaign and in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

The study evaluated public finance for sanitation on the basis of three key criteria, including comprehensiveness (whether funding is allocated so that all segments of the sanitation value chain function effectively), equity (whether funds are adequately targeted to reach the poor and disadvantaged groups) and leveraging (whether public funds are used in a way that effectively leverages other forms of finance). The study found wide differences in approaches to providing public funding for sanitation services and resulting outcomes.

Thailand’s government chose to allocate relatively little funding to sanitation but concentrate available financing on training local health officers, village leaders and volunteers so that they could conduct a range of activities including demand promotion and rigorous monitoring and evaluation. Although policy instruments used in the Thai sanitation sector have varied over the years, the ultimate result was that Thailand achieved dramatic increases in rural sanitation coverage, going from very low coverage to universal coverage in about four decades. An interesting aspect of the Thai approach is that they chose to focus on the most capable (and comparatively richer) villages and households first, expecting them to act as leaders for replication in less advanced villages. This worked initially, until hardware subsidies were allocated to the remaining poorest villages so as to reach universal coverage.

In India, by contrast, the Government of India introduced the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999 after decades of unsuccessful efforts to increase rural sanitation coverage through hardware subsidies. The TSC places emphasis on community mobilisation and provides hardware subsidies only to Below Poverty Line (BPL) households after they have built a latrine and the community as a whole has reached Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. Application of the TSC varies from State to State, however. In Bihar, one of India’s largest and poorest States, although substantial funding has been allocated to the TSC, these funds are not being disbursed effectively. This is due to a number of factors, including the lack of training of civil engineers in software approaches and the fact that NGOs providing software services face difficulties and long time lags for getting paid for their services. The Government of Bihar has identified that Above Poverty Line (APL) households are most lagging in adopting sanitation and has recently introduced hardware subsidies for them as well, thereby threatening to dampen the poverty focus of the TSC.

In Dar Es Salaam, the Government chose to concentrate 99% of public funding on building network sewerage and sewage treatment facilities, even though these systems benefit only 10% and 3% of the city’s population respectively. Household on-site sanitation receives very limited funding for software support provided in a decentralised and uncoordinated manner, with no evidence of impact. This results in an inequitable situation, as the costs to households of building and maintaining a latrine are about 2 to 3 times higher than those of a network connection. Public funding for the sanitation sector in Dar es Salaam is therefore not effective, as it does not significantly increase coverage, achieve environmental results or improve public health.

The study identified four key lessons that could improve the delivery of public finance for sanitation:

(i) Allocate public funding to support the underlying support structure for the sector;
(ii) Strengthen service providers and invest in rationalising the sector;
(iii) Target funds available for hardware more effectively;
(iv) Adapt strategy through time in order to reflect changes in the sector and overall

Author: Sophie Trémolet