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How to budget for COVID-19 response?

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A rapid scan of budgetary mechanisms in highly affected countries

Authors: Hélène Barroy, Ding Wang, Claudia Pescetto, Joseph Kutzin

The COVID-19 pandemic requires sufficient public funding to ensure a comprehensive response. Reprioritizing public spending toward bolstering the economy and the health system requires timely action from government leaders and a supportive public finance environment. Highly-affected countries have taken various approaches to budgetary allocation, depending on their public financial management (PFM) and regulatory systems. Adjustments are required on the revenue side of budgets (e.g. loans) to account for these new economic and fiscal constraints. Quick decision-making on the expenditure side is also needed. That will be the focus of this blog. Every country must develop specific processes for allocating budget funds to the response. To inform budgetary response in countries where the pandemic may spread in the near future, a summary of observed budgetary practices in some highly-affected countries is provided below, with the aim of informing other countries about responses to three key questions:

1) What are the immediate spending actions that can be taken with existing budgets?

2) How to secure budget for COVID-19 response through revisions in finance laws?

3) What can be done to accelerate budget execution and funds release to the frontlines?

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The authors acknowledge inputs received from Tomas Roubal (WHO Western Pacific Regional Office), Tsolmongerel Tsilaajav (WHO South East Regional Office), and Agnès Soucat (WHO Headquarters).