How Kenya can make gender-sensitive budget a reality

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022 09:00 | By
Placing women at decision-making table works. PHOTO/Courtesy
Placing women at decision-making table works. PHOTO/Courtesy

Even though the constitutional requirement of two-thirds gender rule has not been met, the recent elections were an improvement in the election of women in legislative and executive branches of government.

This suggests that better things are still to come. It also shows that people are beginning to fully grasp how women can play leadership roles and influence economic policy.

The biggest challenge, however, is delivering on the promises of raising Kenyan women’s incomes, reducing poverty, closing the achievement and attainment gap for girls, and improving healthcare outcomes, particularly in terms of sexual and reproductive rights, and economic freedoms. It also entails addressing the social ills caused by the economy, such as inequality, eliminating discriminatory practices from the system for delivering public services, and working to lessen marginalisation within the institutional structure of government.

The government must steer policy in a way that is advantageous to either gender to accomplish this. According to conventional economics wisdom, the main objective of economic policy in terms of development is to influence and mobilize capital allocation in a way that maximizes benefits for all citizens.

It is clear that empowering women economically increases productivity, raises incomes, broadens economic diversification and has other positive externalities, making gender-responsive budgeting a sound economic strategy.

To improve incomes and ultimately welfare, Engendering Budgets uses economic policy—in this case, fiscal policy—to encourage women’s advancement and participation in economic activities and the labour market.

Making sure that public finance management is gender-responsive is one of the urgent issues that need to be addressed. Most budget stakeholders should be aware that, despite the constitution’s groundbreaking treatment of gender equity, the public finance management law is gender-neutral. Aligning that law to adhere to the constitutional principle of gender equity is the most important policy requirement.

It will be necessary to use specific gender-responsive budgeting techniques at each of the six stages of budgeting to make the law more gender-responsive. There are six stages in Kenya, primarily consisting of laws and policies, planning and setting priorities, budgeting and programming, implementation, results, and impact. The foundation for gender budgeting is already provided by the Constitution and treaties. The main challenge during the programming and budgeting stage is figuring out which interventions are most successful. In the end, achieving women’s rights is the main goal.

The biggest undoing of fiscal policy is that policymakers tend to commit implicit bias when they direct economic policy. “Implicit bias” refers to the attitudes that policymakers have toward individuals without being aware of it. An illustration is when the National Assembly levied an excise tax on resins. This action raised the cost of diapers since resin is a major input in the manufacturing of diapers.

The three stages at which the budget reform of engendering the budget should be implemented are the budget preparation processes, the revenue side of the budget, and the expenditure side. This will require amendments to the Public Finance Management law to require the National Treasury and policymakers in the ministries, departments and agencies to adhere to Gender Responsive Budgeting rules which already form part of the law.

At the budget preparation stage, the main document that should state the specific gender-responsive budgeting commitment for that financial year is the budget circular. According to Section 36 of the Public Finance Management Law, the medium-term budget policy framework, constitutional timeliness and requirements for key budget preparation activities, programme performance reviews, the form and content of the budget, and a framework for public participation are all covered by the budget circular.

A lot of work still needs to be done to make gender responsive budgeting a reality. In order to address this, it may be necessary to amend the primary public finance management law to mandate that accounting officers from various ministries, departments and agencies as well as the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury take gender responsive budgeting into account when preparing budgets and submitting them to Parliament.

— Leo Kemboi is an economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs

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