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Main Estimates 2017-18 and Development Spending

by Aniket Bhushan and Rachael Calleja 

Published: March 3, 2017

Last week, the President of the Treasury Board Secretariat released the Main Estimates for 2017-18 (ME).

The Main Estimates are the formal spending plans of the government for the upcoming fiscal. Unlike the budget, they are time-bound and have to be tabled at parliament on or before March 1.

In this post we look at the 2017-18 ME for insight into what Global Affairs Canada’s (GAC’s) development spending might look like for the year ahead.


This does not include all of Canada’s development spending or all of what will qualify and be reported as official development assistance (ODA) after the fact.

However, GAC accounts for the vast majority of Canada’s development spending. The ME also provides the budget for IDRC, which counts towards ODA-able development spending.

Finance Canada’s multilateral contributions including to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) are however not included above (though we know from our analysis of the recent IDA replenishment cycle in December 2016 that this will remain flat. Canada chose to keep its contribution to IDA-18 at the same level as IDA-17. Canada’s largest individual investment in development is via IDA).

It should also be noted that the ME represents the understanding at the start of the financial cycle. Supplementary(s), especially in the case of development, can be significant (spending on humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters or other crisis response needs).

What does the data suggest?

Compared to last year’s ME (i.e. 2016-17), GAC budgetary and non-budgetary resources for Strategic Objective 3 “International Assistance and Poverty Reduction” are looking for an increase of $434 million.

Core international development programming remains flat.

The bulk of the increase is for International Security and Democratic Development from $237 million in the 2016-17 ME to $475 in 2017-18 ME.

International Humanitarian Assistance increases $165 million, to $726 million.

However, relative to actual 2015-16 expenditures, as is shown above (also reported in the 2017-18 ME), and earlier expenditures (from past reporting on plans and priorities) the budget is essentially flat.

It can also be seen that the budget for IDRC is lower, relative to last year’s ME and significantly lower relative to 2015-16 actual expenditure.


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