Financial crises in developing and transition countries have often proven disruptive to policies and programmes due to procyclical trends in government spending growth. Given the importance and significant proportion of public budgets devoted to education and health, cuts in government expenditures during recessions potentially place social programmes at risk. This paper analyses the experiences from 1995–2007 for 131 countries, projects fiscal social spending to 2013, and examines specific issues around fiscal social spending in the current crisis, including donor responses and government and household coping mechanisms.
Growth rate trends in education and health spending fluctuate over time, with greater volatility in education. Despite the variation on growth rate trends, absolute levels of fiscal spending rise steadily over time, with brief flat trends over one or two years, reflecting periods of GDP growth decline. Public spending tends to be more counter-cyclical for education compared to health. While sharp declines in growth rates of fiscal social spending are projected, they are balanced by projected increases in absolute spending over the 2008–2013 period.