Governments ‘showing signs of moving towards participatory budgeting’

18 Mar 19

Governments are becoming increasingly interested in giving the public more of a say over budgeting, the policy director of a not-for-profit corporation has told PF International.

Vivek Ramkumar, senior director of policy at the International Budget Partnership, told PF International his organisation had been approached by finance ministers from at least 12 countries asking how to improve public participation in budgeting.

Ramkumar said governments were recognising the challenges of participatory budgeting and trying to overcome these.

“A small group of governments have asked us for greater clarify on the types of mechanisms they can set up to enhance public participation in budgeting,” Ramkumar added.

These countries include South Africa, Philippines, Columbia, Ukraine, Egypt, Nigeria and Guatemala - all members of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency network, which facilitates dialogue between governments, civil society and other stakeholders to boost transparency.

The IBP, which works with civil societies around the world to improve the transparency of public finances, said it had been approached by the ministers after it published its Open Budget Survey in January last year.

The survey is published every two years and ranks countries according to how transparent their public finances are and if they are moving towards public participation.

The IBP believes participatory budgeting means public finances are much more transparent.

“One key bottleneck that prevents citizens and civil society organisations from making key use of information is that there are no proper channels for engagement with governments on the data that they have put in the public domain,” Ramkumar added.

The OBS from last year revealed that transparency across the globe had stalled for the first time in a decade, which the IBP has said was weakening public trust in government and increasing inequality.

The survey, which examined 115 countries across six continents, also revealed that most countries do not provide an opportunity for citizens to participate in the budgetary process.

Juan Pablo Guerrero, network director of Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency, told PF International that in the past there has been some “resistance” to participatory budgeting.

But he said: “Fiscal transparency is now much more accepted by governments and they also accept the way it is measured.

“On public participation, they accepted the results [of the Open Budget Survey] and they are interested in how to engage and how to learn from it.”

Although there was no single reason why governments are starting to be more interested in looking at public participation in their budgeting process, Guerrero said, it could be they are “tired of publishing information that no one uses”.

Public participation in budgeting can also have a positive policy impact, for example on public services, and the United Nations has recognised that without public participation, it will be hard to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, Guerrero added.

Did you enjoy this article?

Related articles

Have your say

CIPFA latest

Related jobs