Equity and Justice

Too often, public finances are viewed through the narrow lens of technical efficiency, or with an outsized emphasis on fiscal discipline to the exclusion of other important values. We believe that public finances should be rooted not only in these important considerations, but also those associated with equity, democracy, and human rights. This implies putting greater emphasis on the distributional impact of fiscal policies, relative to their impact on growth or deficits. The traditional focus on efficiency should be complemented by greater emphasis on effectiveness in service delivery, to ensure public spending delivers on key results such as addressing basic needs and promoting equality. And the processes and institutions through which budget decisions are taken should be redesigned to become more inclusive, democratic, and participatory.

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Reflections & Insights | Research & Analysis

Reflections & Insights

Tax to Finance the SDGs, but Not to Undermine Them (July 2019)

Stakeholders are gathering this week in Berlin to chart the future of the Addis Tax Initiative, whose overarching goal is to increase tax revenues to help finance the Sustainable Development Goals. This blog written by experts from civil society highlights the need to focus on equity and outlines priority areas for reform so as not to undermine the SDGs.

How People Think About Fairness and Why It Matters for Equitable Budgets (May 2019)

How can we build a moral case for equitable budgets and redistributive policies that will resonate with a broad cross-section of society? This reflective piece points to the need to collect more evidence on attitudes about fairness across countries and communities and to fashion messages that emphasize our common humanity, rather than our differences.


Putting the ‘Public’ Back Into Public Finance: How Better Budgets Can Save Democracy (February 2019)

Public finance and government budgets are things few people get excited about, but they affect every one of us much more than we think. What would public finance that puts the public good — human beings with their needs and aspirations — at the center of government policy-making look like? And could this re-framing of public finance be the key to democratic renewal?

Reframing Public Finance cover imageReframing Public Finance: Promoting Justice, Democracy, and Human Rights in Government Budgets (February 2019)

This paper outlines the elements of a proposal to reframe debates around public finance and government budgets, drawing on the inter-related concepts of justice, democracy, and human rights, and putting more emphasis on issues of equity, sustainability, effectiveness and inclusion. The authors address some of the shortcomings of current approaches and propose a more solid, normative foundation on which public finance decisions can be assessed and taken.

Kenya Equity Week (2016-2018)


Kenya Equity Week is a national week of reflection on issues of equity in resource distribution featuring a series of events highlighting views and ideas related to equity emerging from academia, civil society, government, the arts community, development organisations, and citizens. Equity Week was conceived in 2016 by a coalition of partners including IBP Kenya, Katiba Institute, and SID.

Research & Analysis

The politics of tax reform in low- and middle-income countries

This paper surveys the literature on the political economy of domestic tax reform, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. The review looks at the main players involved in the politics of tax reform, the way in which the substance of tax reform shapes political forces, and the process by which taxes are eventually reformed, including how the reforms are framed and understood.

How Transparent are Governments When it Comes to Their Budget’s Impact on Poverty and Inequality?

This paper looks at the information governments provide on the impact of their budget policies on poor and disadvantaged groups – and on poverty and inequality more generally. The analysis is based on the results of three questions from the Open Budget Survey 2017 meant to hone in on these issues. Findings demonstrate that, on average, governments publish very little information on these topics, thereby limiting the ability of civil society to monitor these efforts and hold their governments accountable.

Cover: How Transparent are Governments When it Comes to Their Budget’s Impact on Poverty and Inequality?
How Much Should Counties in Kenya Receive in 2018/19?

Each year Kenya’s Parliament must decide how national revenue will be shared between national and county governments. This discussion is informed by recommendations from the Commission on Revenue Allocation and the National Treasury. This analysis compares the recommendations made by both agencies and explores the main drivers of their differences.

How Fair are Revenue Sharing Mechanisms in Fighting Intra-County Inequalities in Kenya?

While discussions of equity and marginalization in Kenya have traditionally focused on revenue sharing among counties, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Society for International Development shows that inequalities are just as severe below the county level. This paper looks at several approaches Kenya counties have taken to distribute resources through their budgets to determine if these approaches address intra-county inequalities.

How Fair are Revenue Sharing Mechanisms in Fighting Intra-County Inequalities in Kenya?
Do Kenyans Have A Shared Understanding of Fairness? Results From A National Survey

Since 2010, Kenya has confronted a number of policy decisions related to how to share resources, including the revenue sharing formula that distributes funds among the 47 counties. While there has been some discussion of these choices, there has been little discussion of how the public in Kenya thinks about fairness. To begin to generate this evidence, IBP Kenya worked with research firm to develop and administer a national survey. The survey consisted of a set of simple scenarios about sharing resources designed to trigger views of fairness indirectly. This paper describes the survey scenarios used to capture attitudes of fairness and finds that, on average, Kenyans responded in ways that are consistent with widely shared principles of fairness.

kenyans understanding of fairness
Sharing Public Resources Within Counties in Kenya: How Fair Are Emerging Approaches?

In 2010, Kenya began an ambitious devolution process, shifting administrative, financial, and political power from the national to the county level. One of the main drivers of devolution was the glaring inequities between different parts of the country. However, inequality remains a challenge in Kenya. If devolution is to lead to greater equity, resources in county budgets must be allocated equitably. This paper explores how Elgeyo Marakwet, Meru, and Baringo counties address resource sharing challenges and highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. It also offers a set of recommendations for addressing resource sharing within counties in an equitable fashion.

resource sharing kenya
A Fair Share of the Budget: Principles and Practices in Public Resource Distribution in Kenya

This paper investigates what is actually meant by equity and fairness when it comes to sharing public resources. It reviews five principles – need, minimum shares, capacity, effort, and efficiency – that are generally considered in global discussions on fairness and looks at how these principles can be applied to distributing resources in Kenya. The paper also reviews how resources are currently shared in Kenya and then looks at how public resources are distributed in India and South Africa, drawing lessons from these examples.

Principles & Practices : Public Resource Distribution in Kenya
Budget Brief No. 18B – Fair Play: Inequality Across Kenya’s Counties and What It Means for Revenue Sharing

This brief looks at the state of revenue sharing in Kenya as it relates to the distribution of inequalities. The brief also examines the large and critical data gaps and recommends further collection and publication of data.

Budget Brief No. 18A – What is Fair? Sharing Resources in Kenya

This brief examines the fairness of the Kenyan government’s process of revenue sharing by looking at the examples of four Kenyans.