- MoF Launches the Citizen Budget for second straight year
- The document lacks important aspects on the type and explanation of the information available.
- The ECESR values this step and gives important recommendations
In a workshop attended by representatives from the World Bank and the International Budget Partnership on 29 December, the Ministry of Finance launched the Citizen’s Budget for 2015 in the ministry’s attempt to enhance transparency and participation. The Citizen’s Budget helps the inexpert citizen understand since it does not use technical terms.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) suggests that the Ministry of Finance enhance the document data through publishing the Citizen Budget twice.
Even though the ECESR values launching the Citizen Budget for the second straight year as a positive step that the Ministry of Finance has taken, it considers it lacking and underachieving in many of the required aspects, especially regarding the delay in publishing, and quality and comprehensiveness of the accessed information. The Ministry did not publish the finance statement in due time, and approved the budget without putting it up for social debate. Instead, the Citizen Budget was launched as a simplified document of the budget three months after it was approved to call for a meaningless discussion on a budget which is a fait accompli.
This delay is supposed to make us question the government motives to the launch which was late enough not to allow social participation. Moreover, launching it only three days before the deadline which was set by the International Budget Partnership that aims to raise the government’s rating on transparency and participation.
The workshop has shown that these attempts have no significant impact as the reviews and feedback concentrated on criticizing policies which have already been implemented, rather than including the public in the proposing of policies, which means transforming the conference from a workshop where the participants are included to a talk on policies have become faits accomplis.
The document simplified the increased returns, midterm expectations and the effect government policies have on them. However, it neglected explaining some of the most important files, such as debts where it failed to give an adequate explanation of the increase in debt ratio, interest rate and timeframe for repayment, especially after the interests had exceeded the budgetary expenditure with an increase of 23% compared to last year’s.
Even though the document was supposed to give clear, if not technical, explanation on the major national projects, it did not address costs, expected returns, job opportunities or the timeframe needed to implement these projects. However, it only includes attractive names without any content that explains their meaning, in a propaganda-like manner that does not satisfy the citizen needs in knowing the importance or seriousness of these projects.
In this regard, the ECESR recommends that the Ministry of Finance enhance the data clarified in the document, and publish the Citizen Budget twice. The first time would be by simplifying the finance statement to encourage and activate the social participation in the budget formation process, and the second time would be with the approved budget explaining the consequences of the government policies and the budget after the social participation to clarify and encourage the effect of the social participation.
The launch of the Citizen Budget is one of the steps required in the Open Budget Index which measures the transparency where Egypt scored 16/100, receiving the ranking of “insufficient transparency”.