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Budget Transparency

"Participation in decisions related to public budgets is a fundamental right and responsibility of all citizens."

Budgets are a critical link for citizens to participate in the democratic process of national development. In 2011, people from hundreds of organisations met in Tanzania for a Global Assembly on Budget Transparency, Accountability and Participation.

One of their conclusions was that:

"Participation in decisions related to public budgets is a fundamental right and responsibility of all citizens". They also highlighted that "public budgets are raised through citizens' contributions and the income generated by public assets".

The principles and statements they made became part of a published Declaration on Budget Transparency. They stated:

"We have learned, worked and struggled to make budgets and budget processes more transparent and participatory at all levels of government. We have demonstrated that civil society engagement can significantly improve budget processes, decisions and outcomes, and thus transform the lives of people."

At Myanmar's International Day of Democracy celebrations in 2012, Parliamentary Speaker, U Thura Shwe Mann, said: "Only when there are transparency, accountability and responsibility, may democracy flourish."

Responsibility in Public Financial Management is a key field in good governance and there are many tools available to help measure and set benchmarks for performance, develop pathways for improvement, report progress and improve public understanding. These include:

  • Public Expenditure Financial Assessments (PEFA)
  • Public Expenditure Reviews (PER) – which tend to focus on sectors like health or education
  • Social budgeting tools – which help focus spending on important areas of public need
  • Budget surveys such as the Open Budget Survey and Budget Tracker – which measure transparency performance.

Research has shown that there are eight key budget documents that should be publicly available. Some of the budget surveys are able to simply monitor publicly available information to assess performance. Other surveys like the PEFA and PER use more complicated measurement tools.

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