Innovation and technology for more effective government spending and financing

India is pursuing ambitious, technology-driven reform that is making financial services and social protection payments accessible to underserved people, while also reducing leakage of public funds. This reflects part of one government’s effort to more effectively plan and fund its sustainable development strategy, the main theme of the “Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2019”, the latest assessment of the progress that countries are making in mobilizing financing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

JAM, as the Indian initiative is known, integrates a universal biometric digital identity registry, government-sponsored bank accounts for the unbanked, and mobile phone numbers to create a low-cost financial infrastructure that offers services previously out of reach for most Indians.

The J in JAM stands for ‘Jan Dhan’ bank accounts, which free citizens from minimum-balance requirements and provide them low-cost insurance and access to government loans and subsidies. More than 326 million accounts have been opened since 2014. These are now linked to citizens’ unique identification numbers – ‘Aadhaar’, the A in JAM – to provide fraud protection while easing access to public and private services. Some 1.2 billion unique IDs have been issued since 2009. The M in JAM stands for mobile phone numbers, through which India’s 1.16 billion mobile subscribers can access services. The initiative’s positive impacts include saving the government some US$ 8.1 billion, for example by reducing “leakages” of public expenditures that do not arrive at their intended destination.

Now in its fourth year, the “Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2019” is set for release on Thursday, 4 April 2019, in advance of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings and ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development. A collaboration by 60 agencies, led by UN DESA, in close cooperation with the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations Development Programme.

The report focuses this year on government techniques and efforts to project public and private expenditures and investments over longer term periods and choose the most appropriate combinations of public and private sources to fund them. While governments are working at national level, systemic risks are rising, and the multilateral system is under strain. The report warns that a failure to reshape both national and international financial systems will result in the failure of the international community to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including eliminating extreme poverty and combatting climate change. The Task Force was mandated by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and is chaired by Mr. Zhenmin Liu, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs.

This report contributes to the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development which will take place from 15 – 18 April at the UN Headquarters. The SDG Investment Fair, which brings together government officials and investors, will also be held on 15 – 17 April. Later this month, the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters will also take place on 23 – 26 April with a focus on strengthening the role of taxation in mobilizing domestic resources for sustainable development. In addition, this year’s ECOSOC Special Meeting on taxation and the digitized economy, environmental protection and reducing inequality, will be held on 29 April.

For more information:

Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2019, released on 4 April 2019

ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development, 15-18 April 2019

SDG Investment Fair, 15-17 April 2019

18th Session of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (Committee),  23 to 26 April 2019

2019 ECOSOC special meeting, “International Cooperation in Tax Matters”, 29 April 2019