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Financing the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals: why we need to make public finance sexy!

Published on: 13/10/2014

Public finance- money derived from taxation-  is critical for achieving water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone forever. But how do we get governments to prioritise it? What should it be used for? And how can we get it flowing to local levels? WSUP, IRC and Trémolet Consulting will be exploring some of these issues at the 2014 Water and Health Conference - if you're there - join us!

Today marks the start of the 2014 Water and Health Conference, organised by The Water Institute at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina in the U.S.A. Besides presenting some of the innovative work we are doing to support the Government of Ghana to monitor rural water services, a key focus for IRC at the conference will be Public Finance.

Public finance - money derived from national or local taxation - is not very fashionable. And notwithstanding the important work already being done (for example by WHO, WaterAid, WSP, and the SWA partnership), its importance for achieving water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone forever is for the most part neglected. IRC believes that we need to challenge the idea that decent quality services can be provided to the poor through completely fee-based approaches.

In several recent blogs, our CEO Patrick Moriarty explains why public finance isn't a dirty word, but in fact essential for providing water, sanitation and hygiene services to the poor. In short, his message is: new technologies, demand stimulation and business creation are all critical, but, if we're not prepared to look at public finance, we can forget about bringing decent quality services to the poor.

Even the richest countries need public finance to bridge the gaps that the market can't fill and to create frameworks that allow markets to work.

In our recent IRC-event about the shift in Dutch aid towards a trade-based agenda for WASH, this point was made too: even in the richest countries of the world public finance is needed to bridge the gaps that the market can't fill, and to create frameworks that allow markets to work.

We need to build a better evidence base, and drive a new momentum to create public finance solutions that work. Patrick will be speaking about this at a session on the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (on Wednesday 15th between 8:30 and 9:30 - if you're interested, do join him in the Dogwood room). We will be examining questions like how can we work together with other partners to raise the profile of public finance solutions? How can we share learning on what public finance solutions work? How can get better at influencing politicians and other decision-makers to raise and allocate more resources to water and sanitation for low-income communities?

As Patrick points out in his blog the 'elephant in the room', the question that we need to answer is not IF public finance but HOW public finance. How to increase it and make it more effective. Above all, how do we make public finance as sexy as cool technologies and funky social entrepreneurial business models?

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At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.