Financing ‘leave no one behind’: policy options in the social sectors

Working and discussion papers
October 2017
Romilly Greenhill and Gideon Rabinowitz

Meeting the commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ and support progressive universalism will require finance. Money is not the only thing needed: changes in governance, data and policy are also critical. However, meeting this commitment will require changes to the way finance – and public finance in particular – is allocated and delivered. A broad range of financing actions will be needed to leave no one behind, and these must be appropriately tailored to individual contexts across the developing world.

This paper focuses on the sectors in which public finance is likely to have an important role: social protection, education and universal health coverage. It identifies some overarching principles and priorities to help inform efforts, in these sectors and others, to move towards the goal to leave no one behind.

Key findings include:

  • In allocating funds across regions and programmes, donors and governments need to provide a greater-than-proportional allocation to poor and marginalised groups, not an equal per-capita share.
  • The provision of physical facilities and trained staff positively influences access and outcomes, while financial incentives can help to recruit and motivate staff in remote areas.
  • Finance also influences the demand side. Abolishing user fees, reducing indirect costs and providing additional financial incentives, such as cash transfers, can all help support access.
  • Governments need to both mobilise and spend resources in ways that benefit marginalised groups. This includes increasing the share of spending on the social sectors and primary services.
  • Sectoral and sub-sectoral allocations need to improve. Limited progress has been made in increasing the share of government spending on education and health, and the share allocated to primary education has fallen in many countries.