EQ­UITY NOT EQUAL­ITY COUNTS

Po­lit­i­cally, shar­ing re­sources equally is of­ten pop­u­lar, but not truly equal. It rarely can ad­dress the spe­cific de­vel­op­ment prob­lems we are try­ing to solve and may ex­ac­er­bate in­equal­i­ties

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - JOHN KINUTHIA Re­search an­a­lyst at the In­ter­na­tional Bud­get Part­ner­ship Kenya

Few things in life can be pre­dicted with cer­tainty. But among those that are seem­ingly per­ma­nent are the stand­offs be­tween gov­er­nors and their county as­sem­blies over the bud­get. Of­ten the bone of con­tention is re­lated to ward de­vel­op­ment funds and is re­solved when gov­er­nors agree to al­lo­cate some por­tion of the bud­get to be shared equally across the wards.

Un­for­tu­nately, this pat­tern of equal shar­ing is not just a so­lu­tion to po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges, it also ap­pears to in­fuse many of our pub­lic poli­cies. Over the past year, IBP Kenya has an­a­lysed Kenya’s ap­proach to dis­tribut­ing re­sources in na­tional pro­grammes, and across and within the coun­ties. We found a sur­pris­ingly heavy weight given to ap­par­ent equal­ity rather than gen­uine eq­uity. Equal­ity is a laud­able goal of pub­lic pol­icy, but treat­ing ev­ery­one equally can ex­ac­er­bate in­equal­i­ties where in­di­vid­u­als or re­gions are very un­equal to be­gin with.

The CDF is a good start­ing point. Three-quar­ters of the money is shared equally among the 290 con­stituen­cies, while the re­main­ing is dis­trib­uted based on each con­stituency’s share of all of the coun­try’s poor peo­ple.

The CDF is meant to ad­dress poverty through fund­ing for de­vel­op­ment (mainly cap­i­tal) projects. Dis­tribut­ing the ma­jor­ity of funds equally across con­stituen­cies with dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions and mas­sive dis­par­i­ties in poverty is on its face in­equitable, and the fig­ures show that the per capita al­lo­ca­tions to dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies bear this out.

For ex­am­ple, while Man­dera South has the high­est num­ber of poor peo­ple, it re­ceives the low­est per capita al­lo­ca­tion. Us­ing the cur­rent CDF cri­te­ria, Lamu East, with the fewest poor peo­ple in Kenya, re­ceived Sh19,758 per poor per­son in 2015-16, more than 20 times the per capita al­lo­ca­tion to Man­dera South. What jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is there for such dis­par­i­ties in fund­ing?

We move to the Equal­i­sa­tion Fund, which is meant to ad­dress ser­vice gaps in “marginalised ar­eas”. The Com­mis­sion on Rev­enue Al­lo­ca­tion chose 14 coun­ties to ben­e­fit from the fund (leav­ing out marginalised ar­eas in the other 33 coun­ties), and then pro­ceeded to dis­trib­ute half of the fund equally among them. Is this eq­ui­table? Even among the marginalised coun­ties se­lected by the CRA, there are wide dis­par­i­ties in ac­cess to ser­vices. Con­sider health in­fra­struc­ture. Man­dera has one health fa­cil­ity for every 17,875 peo­ple com­pared to Sam­buru, with one fa­cil­ity for every 3,902 peo­ple. A high equal share ig­nores these in­equal­i­ties.

What hap­pens when money gets to the coun­ties? How is it dis­trib­uted at the sub­county level? Many coun­ties have tried to es­tab­lish Ward De­vel­op­ment Funds, in­spired by the CDF. A num­ber fol­low the CDF’s dis­tri­bu­tional ap­proach: A high equal share and a smaller share al­lo­cated “eq­ui­tably”. Baringo and Meru have taken this ap­proach, where 85 per cent of the funds are shared equally while a much smaller share is dis­trib­uted based on pop­u­la­tion (Baringo) or pop­u­la­tion size, in­fra­struc­ture and poverty (Meru).

On the other hand, El­geyo Marak­wet has taken a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, adopt­ing a for­mula that closely re­sem­bles that of the CRA. Even here, though, “equal­ity” ap­pears to dom­i­nate eq­uity, as 60 per cent of the de­vel­op­ment funds are shared equally among the wards, while only 40 per cent is shared eq­ui­tably. Look­ing at in­equal­i­ties across its wards, this ap­proach leaves wards with the worst ac­cess, too lit­tle rel­a­tive to bet­ter-off wards to be able to close the gap.

Other coun­tries put less em­pha­sis on equal shar­ing of rev­enue. In­dia’s for­mula takes into ac­count pa­ram­e­ters sim­i­lar to Kenya’s, like pop­u­la­tion and land area, but does not have a com­po­nent that dis­trib­utes rev­enue equally among the states. The South African for­mula in­cludes an equal share for prov­inces, but this only ac­counts for five per cent of the for­mula.

Po­lit­i­cally, shar­ing re­sources equally is of­ten pop­u­lar, re­flect­ing a pre­vail­ing view that we are “all” marginalised and de­serve a piece of the pie. How­ever, shar­ing equally at the county or ward level is of­ten not truly equal, as pop­u­la­tion dif­fer­ences mean that equal shares are not equal at all on a per per­son ba­sis. More­over, equal shares rarely can ad­dress the spe­cific de­vel­op­ment prob­lems we are try­ing to solve and may ex­ac­er­bate in­equal­i­ties.

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