#DataOnTheStreets International Rally

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What is it?

The Rally is a great opportunity to invite the public to use the data generated by governments, go out to the streets and see how data reflects in their real life. It is a public participation process in the budget implementation phase through open data and digital tools, such as maps and visualizations.

How does it work?

  1. Governments, through their Ministry of Finance, Public Works or similar, and one or more Civil Society Organizations, launch an open invitation to participate in the Rally #DataOnTheStreets.
  2. People register to the event and go through the construction projects dataset or mapping platforms published and select the ones they want to visit.
  3. Participants go out on the streets and check the projects, comparing what they see on the dataset and what they see on the streets.
  4. Participants document their findings through social media (Facebook or Twitter), posting creatively and engaging their own network.
  5. Judges, representatives from government and civil society, choose the winners based on number of projects visited, creativity, engagement and, of course, extra points for data analysis.
  6. On Open Data Day, winners are announced!

How did it go in 2018?

The Rally started in the Ministry of Finance of Mexico in 2016, in 2018 it became international and three countries hosted their own rallies: Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

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Why we like the Rally…

Experience shows that participants tend to be non-data specialists, expanding the audience using open data. As opposed to hackathons and similar events.

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It helps data literacy by bringing the knowledge and tools closer to the people to turn the data into useful information that can engage and build trust, accountability and better government-citizen communication.

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What you need to host your own Rally?

  • Open data of public constructions being built or finished from national or subnational level projects. The data must have: descriptive name of the project, geolocation, budget allocated to the project, financial progress, physical progress.
    • If available, it is best to have the data paired with visualizations, such as maps and photos.
  • A government and a civil society convener. The initiative can be initiated from any side, but it is important to work together.
  • A team in charge of dissemination, answering participant questions, following posts and counting points.
  • Let us know you want to host a Rally!

Important dates

  • November 16th GIFT will open the generic operating rules of the Rally for comments, we are looking to improve last year operation. Each country can make adaptations as required, but the community will benefit from the co-creation of the general rules.
  • November 30th closing comments and integrating a final version of the general rules.
  • January-February 2019 country dissemination efforts (social media, events, radio, interviews…).
  • February 2019 beginning of the Rally, participants go to the streets.
  • March 2nd, 2019 Open Data Day! End of participation and winner’s announcement.

Any question or further information?

Please contact Lorena Rivero at lorena@fiscaltransparency.net and Tarick Gracida at tarick@fiscaltransparency.net

Better Budget Dataquest for sustainable development

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What is a “Dataquest”?

It typically takes the form of a day event, it could be shorter or longer, in which people arrive, with laptops or access to laptops and the internet, and either individually or in teams explore the data. During the event they create insights by engaging with the dataset and combining it with other data and contextualizing it. The outcomes depend on the type of Dataquest, they can be for example a multimedia piece, the start of a research project or a human story among others.

The Better Budget Dataquest

Teams of up to five individuals will explore the spending dataset and by contextualizing it with other data they should come up with findings for one of the following categories: gender, inequality or environment.

A multimedia piece, the start of a research project, a story or other creative ideas must be presented by the end of the event. Considering the insights, judges from government and civil society will decide the winners.

Objectives of the Dataquest

As the Better Budget name suggests, the Dataquest is an opportunity to find new insights on certain topics and innovative ideas to improve budget allocations and execution. The process will also be an opportunity for data publishers to expand budget and data literacy, to increase awareness and engagement, as well as an occasion to observe users’ challenges in using the data to improve publication means.

What you need to host your own Dataquest

  • Open data of budget allocations and expenditures, preferably published through the Open Fiscal Data Package.
  • A place to host the event with good internet access for participants. Consider that in many countries, civil society organizations specialized in open data host events during Open Data Day and offer space for collaborations.
  • A dissemination and engagement strategy.
  • Select the judges, be sure to have an odd number of judges.
  • Let us know you want to host a Dataquest!

Important dates

  • November 16th GIFT will open the generic operating rules of the Dataquest for comments, this is the first year of the Better Budget Dataquest, so we encourage your contributions.
  • January 31th closing comments and integrating a final version of the general rules.
  • January-February 2019 country dissemination efforts (social media, events, radio, interviews…).
  • March 2nd, 2019 Open Data Day, day of the event.

Any question or further information?

Please contact Lorena Rivero at lorena@fiscaltransparency.net and Tarick Gracida at tarick@fiscaltransparency.net

GIFT Online Peer Learning – Webinar series

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#WebinarWednesday

In recent years, GIFT network members and partners have developed digital tools and technology that have allowed to significantly advance fiscal transparency, with a focus on making budget information meaningful and useful for citizens. To promote the sharing and discussion of such valuable experiences, GIFT is offering a program of monthly webinars around the areas of fiscal transparency portals, open fiscal data, strategies for communicating budget information, and initiatives to educate the public on budget matters.

International experience shows that to successfully engage citizens in the budget discussions and decisions, including overseeing its implementation and results governments and specialized civil society need to display a range of actions. This includes a proactive policy to disseminate budget information in formats that make sense for different types of users, a commitment to communicate this information and educate the public in terms of budget literacy, in a way that promotes the use of such information. The use of communication technology has greatly expanded the variety of ways in which government can reach out to the public, and the ways in which non-state actors can initiate or respond to opportunities to provide inputs.

The objective of this webinar program is to explore concrete experiences around the world in the use of digital tools to disclose and to effectively communicate budget information, with the goal of engaging citizens in the budget process. The tour includes a look at how ministries of finance have implemented successful budget open data policies, how they have built fiscal transparency portals, and their efforts to promote the use of data, including offering online courses about the budget.

 

Wednesday, September 26, at 10am EST –   Language: English

Fiscal transparency portals are instruments that can play a very important social role to facilitate the exercise of the right to know how public money is raised and spent.   This webinar will take a close look at how is it that governments are designing portals with potential user interaction in mind, addressing both content generation and its structure. For that purpose, we will explore how interactions between government technicians, information access activists, and journalists who work regularly with budget data are taking place, with a look at the challenges and opportunities entailed.

In this webinar, participants will learn about the experiences of Brazil in revamping, their fiscal transparency portal, which now has a new interface, enhanced accessibility, responsiveness, search engine, navigation, and interactive tables, integrated pages and matrixial navigation. Additionally, the Portal includes new information on, for example, procurement and contracts, travelling expenses, CGU’s reports. The Portal is also now boosted with new tools, such as social media, collaboration, QR code, notifications, open data and APIs.

Besides, participants will hear from the experience of a unique collaboration between GIFT Stewards, the South African National Treasury and the Public Service Accountability Monitor, which is part of a coalition of civil society organizations (IMALI YETHU, “our money”) working together to develop a portal that makes budget data accessible, user-friendly and empowering. The initiative also includes a communications and stakeholder strategy centered on widespread public participation and preference revelation. The project has sought to ensure ongoing engagement of CSOs to arrive to the ideal portal design.

Who:    

  • Otávio Neves, Secretariat of Transparency and Corruption Prevention, BRAZIL
  • Carmela Zigoni, Institute for Socioeconomic Studies (INESC), BRAZIL
  • Raquel Ferreira, National Treasury, SOUTH AFRICA
  • Zukiswa Kota, Public Service Accountability Monitor, SOUTH AFRICA

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Wednesday, November 7, at 10am EST –   Language: English

Not rarely, budget authorities invest great efforts to publish fiscal information in compliance with international standards, only to find that the use of such data by the public is meager. Experience has shown that to foster the use of such data by the public, it is not enough to disclose it. Governments also need to make concerted efforts to communicate the budget data in innovative and creative ways that are relevant for potential users and in easily accessible language and formats. This session will explore how governments are working in collaboration with civil society to design and implement effective communication policies that consider the interests and characteristics of potential users, though the use of social media and other digital tools.

Who:    

  • Anna A. Belenchuk. Division Chief, Budget Analysis and Development. Department of Budget Methodology and Public Sector Financial Reporting. Ministry of Finance of The Russian Federation.
  • Wawan Sunarjo. Head of Subdirectorate of Data and Technical Support. Ministry of Finance of Indonesia.

Presentations used during the webinar:

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Wednesday, November 28, at 10am EST –   Language: English

What is budget open data? How to build a budget open data? What for and how to target an open data policy? How do we know the open data policy is working? This webinar addressed the fundamental question when planning an open data policy, referencing to a new tutorial composed of ten 1-2 minutes videos that explain how to implement a fiscal transparency policy with open data as a fundamental pillar.

Who:    

  • Aura Martínez Oriol. Director of Budget Performance Information Analysis, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico.
  • Fabrizio Scrollini. Executive Director, Latin-American Initiative on Open Data from Uruguay (ILDA).

Presentation used during the webinar:

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Friday,  December 14, at 10am EST –   Language: Spanish

Esta sesión exploró experiencias en el uso de datos presupuestarios por parte del público. ¿Cómo ha promovido el gobierno el uso? ¿Cómo ha maximizado y trabajado la sociedad civil para multiplicar el uso de los datos del presupuesto? ¿Cuáles son las experiencias de colaboración entre el gobierno y la sociedad civil en este campo? ¿Cuáles han sido los retos? ¿Cuáles son las oportunidades? ¿Qué evidencia tenemos de cómo el público está utilizando esta información?

Presentadores:

  • Jeannette von Wolfersdorff. Directora Ejecutiva, Observatorio del Gasto Fiscal en Chile.
  • Leonardo Buitrago. Dirección General de Presupuesto y Gasto Público, Ministerio de Hacienda y Crédito Público de Colombia.

Presentation used during the webinar:

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5. Exploring effective ways to engage citizens. The role of digital tools, what works?
Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at 10am EST

6. Educating about the budget- Online courses experiences
Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 10am EST

Money Matters: Public Finance & Social Accountability for Human Capital Forum

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by Juan Pablo Guerrero, GIFT Network Director

The fifth edition of the Global Partners Forum of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (October 30-November 1) was devoted to public finance, social accountability and human capital. With the World Bank Human Capital Project and the International Budget Partnership, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency network was a co-organizer of the event. The main goal was to better understand how countries can use their public finances to invest more and better in health and education for their citizens and what roles citizens and society organizations can play, working with governments and other actors.

This is a global effort, presented by the Vice President of Human Development of the World Bank, Annette Dixon, to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth. Human capital consists of the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, enabling them to realize their potential as productive members of society. The World Development Report (WDR) 2019: The Changing Nature of Work shows that without strengthening human capital, countries cannot sustain economic growth, will not have a workforce prepared for the more highly skilled jobs of the future and will not compete effectively in the global economy.

The Human Capital Project includes the Human Capital Index, which is intended to be published once a year. The main objectives of this measurement effort are: (i) to provide policymakers with more information on how to invest in human capital and (ii) to create public demand for human capital investments.

Human Capital and Public Finance Management

As we know, governments and budgets have a vital role in building human capital. Both as providers of public health and education and as regulators of private providers. But as the human capital index shows, governments often fail to deliver. Most governments commit a significant share of their budget to education and health, but public services are often too low quality to generate human capital.

The discussion about human capital is closely related to the 3 main functions of Public Financial Management (PFM). Sustainability, because human capital requires long term sustained investment, with significant coordination of various agencies, it must be a high level government priority for a long period of time. Allocation of resources, with the difficult trade-offs that investing in a long term policy brings: it is easier to build a school than to ensure good quality of the education of the children -the latter does not always pay off politically-. And third, the question of trust and government accountability, related to oversight mechanisms, transparency and citizen engagement.

Bureaucracies in charge of implementing policies to build human capital often lack the capacity or the incentives to do so effectively. This is why information is an essential first step toward encouraging citizens to demand more from their leaders and service providers. So, better measurement increases policy makers awareness of the importance of investing in human capital.

How could PFM help improve the quality of public services? 

The search for more effective mechanisms to deliver public services has been at a core of policies enacted by governments around the world. The quest for value for money. In the PFM community, this challenge has taken several forms over the years:

  • The development of programmatic and results-based budgeting, with performance indicators;
  • The devolution of decision making to regional and local governments;
  • More recently, attempts to develop greater involvement of citizens in the preparation, execution and monitoring of the budget.

Since 2012, public participation is a principle of global norms: following the GIFT High Level Principles on Fiscal Transparency, Participation and Accountability, IMF, PEFA, IBP, OECD include the idea of direct involvement of the public in the budget cycle in their revised versions of the fiscal transparency standards. In the international agenda, public participation is not only on how to improve allocations, but also how civil society can help make government more responsive, efficient and effective.

Examples of the benefits of fiscal transparency and informed citizen engagement in budget process (The Impacts of Fiscal Openness: a Review of the Evidence) are many but to name a few:

  • Better resource allocation (i.e. subnational transfers in Mexico, with the role of the media and CSOs leading to changes in the criteria for investment projects approval to observe urban sustainable mobility);
  • Improvement in the provision of public services (i.e. social accountability / monitoring experiences of sanitation in South Africa or social audits in India);
  • Better response to the preferences of the beneficiaries of the services (i.e. Kenya devolution experiences and refining gender subsidies beneficiaries in Mexico);
  • Opportunity for marginalized groups to exert some influence in decisions that affect them (i.e. i-monitor in Nigeria which invites citizens to inform of any budget waste, South Korea open consultations for budget implementation and in Indonesia, LAPOR, complaints on line systems);
  • Better impact of actions that affect communities in social policies: health sector, community level public works, education, well-being (i.e. participatory budgeting, Brazil).

What examples are there on citizen engagement in the national budget process?

There are multiple examples of public participation in the budget process around the world. The IBP Open Budget Survey edition 2017 finds mechanisms in 94 countries out of the 115 surveyed. There are a variety of innovative examples with different reach in all the steps of the budget cycle: from informing, to consulting, to engaging, to empowering. And public participation is present on tax policies, expenditures, control and evaluation.

For instance, the GIFT network has facilitated an increasing number of ministries of finance to have open dialogues with potential fiscal information users to provide user-oriented information online. Besides having as a result dynamic and interactive platforms, this dialogue has been very useful for everyone around the table for collaboration on fiscal transparency and accountability related issues.

The PFM agenda has evolved dramatically and will continue to evolve. But every time it is clearer that the budget process is also a political process. We will fail if we try to provide only technical solutions to political challenges. That is why partnerships between Governments and Civil Society are critical, which will be important to align incentives and establish productive collaboration formats. Reliable measurements and efficient ways of communication, such as digital technology, are crucial. There is a need to move beyond an adversarial approach and establishing a constructive engagement between CSOs and Government reformers, as part of broader coalitions of stakeholders to push and sustain reform agendas as the one needed for building human capital. This has been referred as the idea of co-creation by the Open Government Partnership community.

From this perspective, it is good to see that the Human Capital Project includes the creation of a community of practice in each country that will address, among other challenges, the production of relevant information. One should hope that these communities include all relevant stakeholders.

PFM rules and institutions

PFM institutions will be needed too. At the macro level, aggregate rules that ensure fiscal sustainability may lead to biases against human capital expenditure. Fiscal rules have proliferated around the world to keep fiscal sustainability in check. The next generation of fiscal rules should also address the composition of spending. Other PFM rules could protect public investment in human capital. In this task, the roles of international financial institutions will be crucial. At the micro level, a myriad of institutions need to be strengthened, ranging from results-based budgeting for expenditure allocation, medium-term fiscal framework, the creation of smart integrated data systems, fiscal councils in charge of quality of spending, public investment management agencies, public procurement, and so on.

The role of civic tech and digital government for public participation

Let me make a disclaimer with respect to digital technologies as new hopes for citizen engagement (e-democracy, e-governance, e-participation). IT enhances participation in some cases. But it does not resolve two fundamental issues regarding citizen engagement (Civic Tec in the Global South, Peixoto-Sifri).

The first issue relates to unequal participation, which is obvious if you think about it. Civic tech might impede the participation of individuals who are traditionally excluded, and it might further empower the already empowered. In developing and poor countries, the combination of online and offline participation seems to be necessary, as well as alternative participatory designs, if inclusiveness is a value to be pursued.

The second issue relates to government responsiveness. While civic tech dramatically lowers the costs for citizens to project their voices and express their needs, the levels of willingness, capability, and resources available for governments to provide a meaningful response remain the same. Government responsiveness would likely depend on a number of political and institutional factors.

The challenges of unequal participation and responsiveness need to be addressed in any case. The GIFT PP principles (Link), developed in 2015, tackle issues such as inclusiveness, accessibility, sustainability, among other important components to ensure clarity on the rules of engagement with respect to the purpose, scope, constraints, intended outcomes, process and timelines, as well as the expected and actual results of public participation.

However, I believe there is a feature that makes the combination of digital government and transparency quite remarkable. Government management information systems have facilitated to capture and concentrate thousands of transactions daily. For the first time, government data can be in formats that can be machine readable and human readable. In some countries, citizens have increasing access to the exact same data used by officials for decision making. No technological innovation has ever allowed such a potential reduction in the asymmetries of information between authorities and citizens.

Two dilemmas for building human capital (inequality and trust) and a piece of the puzzle missing

Building human capital goes to the heart of reducing inequality. This refers to the question of allocation of resources, with the difficult trade-offs between spending in the present, or investing in the future. It is difficult to raise taxes when citizens are unwilling to pay more as they don’t believe their governments will spend those additional resources efficiently. Thus, a precondition for expanding public expenditure seems to be government’s ability to deliver efficient services, leaving nothing to waste.

Another component is trust in government, which is a key ingredient behind citizen demands. According to the report on development in the Americas (IADB, Better Spending for better Lives) when lack of trust is high—be it because of government inefficiency or blatant corruption— citizens prefer transfers over long-term investments. In face of the need of investing in human capital, this situation could be highly detrimental for development, since inequality and lack of trust may end up undermining the future with lower investments, both in physical and human capital.

Inequality and lack of trust are also related to a missing piece in fiscal transparency. The increasing public concern in many countries about the fairness of tax burdens and elite ‘capture’ of tax policy setting, alongside widespread tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. This concern has been identified as one of the main reasons behind the growing deterioration of trust in public finances and government management of public resources.

Nevertheless, few governments publish enough information about tax policies and tax administration to allow non-state actors to engage publicly in an informed debate. Here again, the demand side of transparency, participation and accountability has considerable potential to strengthen domestic tax efforts, and to improve the fairness, legitimacy and sustainability of tax systems. But much more transparency on the revenue side is needed.

What are we referring to? Tax openness includes open and participatory tax policy development, routine disclosures on tax incidence (tax burdens) in annual budget documents, transparency and accountability in tax administration, resource revenue transparency (tax expenditures), issues around non-tax revenues (e.g. transparency of and accountability for fees and charges for public services), the environmental impacts of fiscal policies (e.g. fossil fuel tax subsidies), the scope for taxing environmental externalities (e.g. carbon taxes), and the growing area of international transfers of climate finance and how those revenues are managed at the national level.

To sum up:

  • The quality of public services can be improved by information disclosure that responds to the needs of information users and by engaging the public in the delivery process.
  • Dialogue between stakeholders can help for the sustainability of reforms that alter systems and inertias, such as building human capital.
  • The use of digital tools gives the opportunity of reaching a broader audience, playing a potential important role in tackling the engagement deficit in public policies and in supporting better outcomes for citizens.
  • A long term investment in building human capital suppose an open and informed debate on the impact of the fiscal system in inequality, which requires more transparency not only in the expenditures side, but also on the revenue side, in order to clearly identify its impact.

PFM news institutions will need to protect human capital investment. Fiscal rules, medium term fiscal framework, smart integrated data systems, fiscal councils should become institutionalized allies of the important goal.

Transparency without participation: challenges for democracy in Brazil

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by Carmela Zigoni, Political Advisor from Inesc

 

It was carried out, in Portugal, between October 17 and 18, 2018, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency – GIFT annual meeting, which gathered representatives of governments and civil society organizations from 32 countries, in addition to representatives of the World Bank and academics. GIFT is an independent network that has the purpose of facilitating the debate among governments, the civil society, international financial institutions, and other agents in the field of public finance in order to reach shared solutions to improve the transparency and participation in countries around the world. Inesc (Institute for Socio-Economic Studies), which takes part in the network since its creation in 2015, participated as an organization of Brazilian civil society.

Brazil is a country that presents itself as an example of transparency in the last few years, due to the legal framework regarding public data – as the Fiscal Responsibility Law and the Access on Public Information Law –, as well as the great number of government’s open data publicly available today, on the internet. Furthermore, Brazil is the 7th place in the world concerning budget transparency according to the Open Budget Index of the International Budget Partnership – IBP, appearing only after New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Georgia, and Mexico, tied with the United States.  The country is also a member of the Open Government Partnership – OGP, which promotes the debate between the Brazilian government and several NGOs on solutions for the government to become even more open.

However, if Brazil is so transparent from the national perspective and so active in international public transparency networks, why do we experience so many corruption cases and the inefficiency in public expenditures? Moreover, why have citizens lost trust in public institutions exactly during the democratic period, from 1988 until today, presenting an abstention rate of 20% in elections? The key word, which was the theme of the GIFT meeting, is participation.

With a framework constitutionally structured in regard to institutional participation, Brazil counts, today, on several mechanisms of participation, besides voting: public policies councils in the three federal branches, consisting of representatives of the government and society (in such group, active professionals in organizations and social movements, scholars, as well as users of the public policy at issue are included);  public policies conferences, which in the past recent years totaled 103 national conferences, in addition to the municipal and state ones; public hearings; and it also counts on plebiscites and referenda (both scarcely used). However, if on the one hand, these mechanisms are quite sophisticated, in terms of structure and institutionally, in practice, the economic and budget issues are minimally discussed in such spaces, resulting on only a consultation role to the councils. There are not many councils which have a deliberative role, the few ones that can be mentioned are the following, CONAMA (National Council of Environment), CNS (National Council of Health), CNAS (National Council of Social Assistance), CDCA (Council for Children and Adolescents Rights), and CODEFAT (Deliberative Council of the Workers Supporting Fund), among others. The Inter-councils Forum, a space that brings together representatives of all the national councils, would represent the first stage to regulate fiscal issue, but it has been losing the capacity of action in the last three year. The fact is that the participation in the Brazilian budget cycle is limited, even though some civil society organizations may seek to conduct analyses and advocate before public authorities in order to establish the destination of funds and the supervision of public policies.

Regarding the open data, the Transparency Portal has become a model for other countries, as it concentrates a great quantity of data of several types, such as information on the budget (incomes and expenditures), contracts with companies, public servants salaries, among others. However, three issues can be problematized in relation to this field: firstly, the fact that the only data available are the ones from the Executive Branch, there is no data in the portal concerning the Legislative and Judicial Branches – data availability within those branches is more restricted. A second issue concerns the confidentiality legislation, which brings opacity to data related to public banks and public companies, as well as to beneficiaries of tax incentives. We do not know, for instance, which are the exact beneficiaries of tax expenditures in Brazil today: there is a total of $ 75 billion of annual tax waiver not collected for the public treasury, and data on benefitted companies is not disclosed, neither are the amounts received. Lastly, the volume of open data brings a new challenge:  the private initiative is the one capable of processing such quantity of data in order to produce strategic information. Civil society (organizations, social movements, and academia) lacks human and financial resources to take action, for example, in the creation and use of algorithms and applications able to generate timely and useful information for citizens.

The following countries, which have different backgrounds and democratic traditions, were present at the last GIFT meeting: South Africa, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia, Brazil, Benin, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Slovenia, the United States, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, England, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, Uruguay and Uzbekistan. Many of them are still defining how to create a legal framework for transparency, others, such as the case of Portugal, which in addition to having a national participatory budget, made the initiative mandatory at some levels, as in the case of public schools. Participatory budget (PB), a public policy that emerged in Brazil in the late 1980s, is now a widespread tool in the world, and more frequent in Europe. On the one hand, if in Brazil, when it was created, PB was an instrument of democratization and of fight against poverty, in Europe it has been currently tried as a way to restore public confidence in public institutions. This is also the case of Russia, which has implemented, through a technical cooperation with Portugal, mediated by the GIFT, the regional participatory budget, reaching hundreds of people in face-to-face meetings and in a digital application to define the destination of 15 million dollars, which is equivalent to 1% of the budget for the Sakhalin region.

Another way to promote direct participation is using technology, through digital consultations on government issues: in Madrid, for example, the PB in 2017 had the participation of 400,000 people, in order to define the destination of 100 million euros, and it cost 1 million euros, in other words, 10% of the budget placed under public consultation of the population. Digital tools can reach, for example, those citizens who do not want to participate through institutionalized instances of participation, such as councils. In Brazil, digital participation initiatives are still timid. A solution would be, for example, the definition of a public policy for the reuse of open data and direct participation in order to enable an actual reach in terms of scale and presenting a diversity in the profile of such participation. Without it, we will be reproducing the social inequalities of access to data: the companies holding a greater capacity to produce strategic information for their interests, the organized civil society seeking to understand the data and create solutions with scarce resources, and citizens with little access to this process.

Countries that take part in the GIFT, including Brazil, are in accordance with its 10 principles, which address the role of the three branches in the fiscal policy and budget cycle, as well as the institutions required for public transparency. We highlight two of these principles, which are directly related to participation: the first, “Everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information on fiscal policies,” and the tenth principle, “Citizens should have the right and they, and all non-state actors, should have effective opportunities to participate directly in public debate and discussion over the design and implementation of fiscal policies.”

These principles point to a fundamental value: transparency must be at the service of the promotion of democracy and rights. Transparency, without an effective participation of society, will not make Brazil a more just, equal, and less corrupt country.

How to publish budget and spending data openly

At the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT)  and Open Knowledge International (OKI) we believe that governments’ budget and spending data should be made available to all, so that anyone can see how their tax money is spent, what priorities their governments make, and governments can be held accountable.

Increasingly governments make their budget data already openly available, and that is really great to see. Civil society organisations, but also individual researchers, journalists, and anyone who is interested, can use this data to generate insights and share those with the public. But still much of the information is only available in PDF and other non-open formats, and not published as data. As a result, scrutinising and putting the data to use is difficult and requires a lot of work.

GIFT and OKI have partnered to address this issue. Along with the BOOST World Bank initiative and a dedicated open data community, we developed the [Open] Fiscal Data Package.   Its   version 1.0  is now available! We built the OpenSpending portal on top of the [Open] Fiscal Data Package, to make it really easy to publish budget and spending data. Once it is up, a whole suite of tools are readily available to anyone to view, visualise and integrate the data.

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How to get your budget and spending data in OpenSpending

There are two ways to make your data available via OpenSpending. The first is to manually upload the data using the OpenSpending Packager. If you have your fiscal data available as a CSV file, you can try it today. The packager will guide you through an intuitive process, which in a few easy steps means that your data can be accessed and visualised by anyone via the  OpenSpending platform. If you have any questions about it, reach out on   our forum  or find us on our   chatroom on Gitter.

If you want to publish your data more regularly and automatically, we can help you by setting up what we call a pipeline. This is fairly technical process that we have trialled with the Mexican government. Because this is an automated process, it makes it easier longer term for governments to adopt this process. If you are interested in this, we would love to hear from you via openspending-support@okfn.org. An example of what it could look like to have your data published, is on Mexican transparency portal as you can see below:

OpenSpending integrated in the Mexican Transparency Portal. Get in touch with us to learn more about this process.

OpenSpending integrated in the Mexican Transparency Portal. Get in touch with us to learn more about this process.

Want to learn more? Join our webinar on 12 September!

If you are a local, regional or national government interested in learning how you can benefit from OpenSpending, please join our webinar on 12 September at 10am EST (3pm BST / 4pm CEST). OKI’s Fiscal Transparency lead Sander van der Waal will present the Fiscal Data Package specification version 1 and the OpenSpending toolset. This is a great opportunity for government representatives to learn how they can work with us to get their data into OpenSpending. The webinar can be accessed   here. Bookmark your calendar now!

Open Data Tutorial: Opening and promoting use of budget data

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The Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency, in collaboration with one of its Lead Stewards, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico, invites publishers and consumers of budget data to participate in the tutorial “Open data: Opening and promoting use of budget data “.

The tutorial concentrates tools that enable the data opening process to contribute to a successful budget transparency policy. As a result, budgetary data publishers, particularly teams from finance ministries at any level of government, are expected to know the minimum steps for the opening process and the concepts to differentiate public data from open data, identify potential users and recognize the sources from which information come. It also provides practical guidance on topics such as the debugging and cleaning of data sets, the use and linking of national and international standards, as well as about user licenses, to protect users. Finally, recognizing that this process entails a challenge for many governments, it also incorporates considerations on human and other types of resources necessary for the process and its sustainability.

With this, once again the importance of cooperation between peers to advance the creation and strengthening of capacities within the network, through the use of technology, stays confirmed and strengthened.

We invite you to open budget data!

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In this video we welcome you to the tutorial and explain how to build an multidisciplinary team in order to implement a budget transparency policy.

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This video explains what is open data and its distinction with other concepts such as open government and transparency. Likewise, it provides detail on the levels that serve as a reference regarding data openness.

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The publication of budget information in open formats increases the inputs available to the public. This video will introduce some successful cases of open data use to influence the improvement of public policies, analysis of public spending and fostering of administrative efficiency in the governmental sector.

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Here you will find the minimum steps to bare in mind while in a budget data opening process. These will be properly fleshed out in our following short videos, review documents and the webinar.

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.Data only has value to the extent it is used. This video presents recommendations to identify people and organizations interested in your information, the target audience, with the purpose of facilitating decision-making on budgetary data.

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This video explains aspects to take into account regarding the origin of the data and its format, how to identify the areas involved in the process, analyze the starting point of the quality of the information, etc.

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Debugging-and-cleaning

Details of some common errors during the processing of the information and how to correct them.

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This video explains what a data standard is, the advantages of using them and some strategies to standardize budget information.

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This video explains factors that, when not taken into account, can jeopardize the medium and long-term success of the openness process, such as updating, periodicity, technological infrastructure, temporal and human costs, among others.

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In this video you will know what to consider to open budget data with a license that allows both its commercial and non-commercial use and reuse without restrictions.

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The webinar addressed how to guarantee effective access to open budget data, facilitating the interaction, linkage and civic participation.

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The IMF Fiscal Forum brings the OECD, IMF and GIFT together to launch the IMF Fiscal Transparency Handbook and OECD Budget Transparency Toolkit

Screen-Shot-2018-04-25-at-19.06.26Corruption and public sector governance were the issues of discussion at the 2018 Fiscal Forum of the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department, as part of the Spring Meetings. At the center of the conversation around Institutional reforms to fight corruption was fiscal transparency. As It becomes an increasingly complex, vast and challenging matter, the official launch of the IMF Fiscal Transparency Handbook and the OECD Budget Transparency Toolkit at the Forum comes as timely and relevant. Vitor Gaspar (Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF), Luiz de Mello (Director, Policy Studies Branch, Economics Department, OECD), and I had the honor to present these new tools to the Forum’s public in a reception that took place on April 21, 2018.

These new resources aim to answer two basic questions: How is my country doing regarding fiscal transparency? And how to move forward? by providing elements that will help better understand the dimensions of these challenges and what countries around the world are doing in the field.

The OECD Toolkit is a user-friendly gateway to the fiscal transparency instruments. It introduces the various standards and guidelines that are available and explains how these complement each other, allowing users to move beyond the level of principles and theory, towards action and impact. The IMF Handbook gives a safe route towards improved levels of fiscal transparency. It is robust and rigorous guidance for disclosure of information about public finances. Together, the Toolkit and the Handbook provide an exhaustive, accurate, systematic and comprehensive mapping of fiscal transparency today. Responding to the long-standing and justified discontent in various ministries of finance in the face of the excessive number of norms and standards on fiscal transparency, the Toolkit and the Handbook work together to provide a complete geo-referenced understanding of the field.

The Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency is honored to be part of this effort. GIFT is a global network that facilitates dialogue between governments, civil society organizations, international financial institutions and other stakeholders to find and share solutions to challenges in fiscal transparency and participation.  Some of its most important work takes place through advocacy and high-level dialogue for norms and standards harmonization. GIFT was founded by the IMF, OECD, the World Bank and the International Budget Partnership, and the budget departments of Brazil and the Philippines. The breadth and depth of this network membership provided a unique perspective to discussions on preliminary versions of today’s feature presentations, Toolkit and Handbook.  These tools are a product of consultations and discussions involving relevant stakeholders in the field, including civil society organizations and independent users of fiscal information, such as the International Budget Partnership.

Users of these new documents will find many novel features.  The argument of linking openness with civic engagement stands out as a turning point in the history of the way international financial institutions have been addressing fiscal transparency. This refers to the principle of direct public participation in fiscal policies. Direct public participation in the budget process? Yes!

As a matter of fact, the GIFT High Level Principles, endorsed in 2012 by the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD, and subsequently acknowledged by the General Assembly of the United Nations, established, along with the right to access to fiscal information, the right to direct participation in fiscal policies. More recently, in 2017, IBP’s Open Budget Survey shows that, although there are few opportunities around the world for citizens to exert this right, more than 80% of the countries surveyed (94 out of 115) have some form of participatory mechanism in place.

Civil engagement is already taking place, in budget formulation, in execution, in monitoring, in infrastructure investments, in tax collection, in service delivery, and control of corruption, with many positive outcomes. It is not a substitute for existing legitimate institutions related to democratic representation, but rather a complement to such institutions, including the line ministries using public resources, the parliaments and the supreme audit institutions, in order to help them to better do their work.

After more than two decades of non-stop work to advance the agenda of fiscal transparency, I find two facts to be undebatable. One, the  work never ends. Resistance to change will always be a natural characteristic of institutions, and of the people in them. So, the effort to advance fiscal transparency needs to be tireless. It is just like pushing a cart uphill: the instant you stop pushing, the cart starts to roll back down. You just can’t take a break.

For example, according to the results of the Open Budget Survey 2017, many governments around the world are making less information available about how they raise and spend public money. The reversal of transparency gains is particularly discouraging given roughly three-quarters of the countries assessed do not publish sufficient budget information (a score of 61 or higher), seriously undermining the ability of citizens worldwide to hold their government accountable for using public funds efficiently and effectively.

The second fact is related to this “uphill law”: for fiscal transparency reforms to last, to endure, and to be sustainable, countries need to have a strong domestic demand. Nothing can take the place of the domestic ownership of the right to know, and the right to participate. The role of the taxpayers, and of civil society in general, is irreplaceable. Only the taxpayers, who are investors and beneficiaries of the public services they pay for, can ensure the sustainability of fiscal transparency reforms. That is why public participation is so crucial. It means that fiscal transparency is used and therefore relevant, meaningful and potentially impactful. If acknowledging and exercising the right to information has been our goal in the last 20 years, establishing the right to participation in fiscal policies is this generation’s primary task.

And talking about participation, I would like to acknowledge the outreach effort of the OECD and IMF throughout the process leading to the publication of the Toolkit and the Handbook. As mentioned, these documents, actually, living documents, have been subject to discussion, scrutiny and dialogue among independent civil society users, members of the GIFT network, and through other organizations. Thus, these institutions have already put into practice what they preach on openness and participation, and the result is of course an incredibly solid and relevant contribution to our field, and an example to such efforts going forward. Congratulations!

You can download the IMF Fiscal Transparency Handbook here and the OECD Budget Transparency Toolkit here.

The 2017 Open Budget Survey: What the results for public participation mean

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The latest round of the Open Budget Survey (OBS 2017) includes a new set of measures of public participation based on an emerging international consensus about what participation in the budget process should look like. The participation questions were fundamentally redesigned for the 2017 survey, so it is not possible to assess changes since the 2015 survey.

Budget participation scores are low overall, with the global average score being 12 (out of 100). This average masks considerable variation across countries and across stages of the budget cycle.

First, the survey finds that public engagement takes place more during the budget preparation stage than during budget implementation; more when the budget is approved by the legislature than when the legislature considers the Audit Report; and in a significant number of countries the Supreme Audit Institution engages publicly on the setting of its audit program.

Secondly, a small number of countries are engaging the public across the whole budget cycle and exhibit many good practices (Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom). A much more diverse group of countries achieved the top score for public engagement by the executive branch on at least one of the ten questions in the survey, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, and Ukraine. More than 80% of the countries surveyed (94 out of 115) have some form of participatory mechanism in place.

Open Budget Survey 2017 results for public participation: countries scoring 20 and above
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Source:   https://www.internationalbudget.org/open-budget-survey/

It is clear, however, that all countries need to enhance the inclusiveness, openness, and depth of existing public engagement mechanisms and implement similar mechanisms in other stages of the budget cycle.

What are the low average scores telling us?

First, direct public participation in the budget process is, in general, a very recent element in fiscal transparency. Budgeting has traditionally been conducted within government institutions, and the first generation of international fiscal transparency initiatives was essentially confined to the disclosure of fiscal information. While there is a clear move towards more openness in budgeting – reflected for example in the formation of the Open Government Partnership – this trend is from a low base and, as noted, is uneven across different stages of the budget cycle.

Secondly, although based on experiences around the world, one needs to recognize that some of the GIFT Principles of Public Participation are aspirational. They flow from the assertion, in the 2011  GIFT High Level Principles of Fiscal Transparency, Participation and Accountabilityendorsed by the UN General Assembly – that direct public engagement in the design and implementation of fiscal policies is a right of citizens and taxpayers. This view goes back at least as far as the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789, which stated: ‘All citizens have the right to ascertain, personally or through their representatives, the necessity of the public tax, to consent to it freely, to know how it is spent, and to determine its amount, basis, mode of collection, and duration.’ (Article 14).

Reflecting an emerging consensus, International fiscal transparency standards have very recently started to incorporate a few elements of direct pubic participation e.g. in the IMF’s Fiscal Transparency Code[1], and OECD instruments.

There are, however, few specific standards yet on what constitutes a recognized practice in engaging the public in central government budget management. The OBS is playing a pioneering role in helping to define the sorts of practices that reflect sound principles. The OBS is also now collecting invaluable information on what is taking place on the ground in 115 countries. This will prove a valuable resource for practitioners and researchers in government, legislatures, Supreme Audit Institutions, civil society, international institutions, and indeed standard setters, to draw on in strengthening public engagement.

Thirdly, some of the main reasons the participation scores are generally so low is that most countries are not making the effort to engage with even a minimally diverse set of citizens and interests, and are not providing feedback to the public on how their inputs were considered or used. The GIFT Participation Principles stress inclusiveness and respect for self-expression for a very good reason: to try to avoid public participation being dominated by the ‘usual voices’, the best connected, lobbyists, the wealthy, or narrow elites. Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership, has described budgets as sitting ‘at the nexus of democracy and inequality.’ Governments can easily go through the motions and claim to be listening to the public when their intention is the reverse. In a change from the 2015 Survey, the 2017 OBS therefore measures efforts to engage widely and with the marginalized and vulnerable. One effect of this change is that countries such as South Korea that rely more on expert-based participation rather than broad public participation, score considerably lower in the 2017 Survey. While open external expert scrutiny, input and deliberation is a valuable form of public participation, it is not a substitute for wide engagement across society.

If more governments do not become more inclusive in how they design and implement taxation and public spending, we are much less likely to counter the negative trends with respect to inequality, willingness to pay taxes, and trust in government. One challenge from OBS 2017 is to work much harder on inclusive public engagement in the management of public finances. As GIFT’s founders recognized in 2011, direct public engagement has the potential to transform the disclosure of fiscal information into more effective accountability and better development outcomes. And the ICT revolution has given it a major shot in the arm, by dramatically cutting the cost of direct interactions between governments and citizens, as well as by making possible entirely new forms of public participation.

It also needs to be recognized that, like any survey, the OBS has to contain its scope to be manageable. With respect to public engagement by the executive branch of government, the 2017 Survey for the most part measures direct interactions between central finance ministries and the public. We know that a lot of direct public engagement is implemented by line ministries and agencies that actually deliver public services or make payments to citizens (as revealed by the findings for the question in the OBS that applies to line ministries). There is again limited practical guidance on what constitutes good practice in this area. GIFT is compiling examples of public participation across the whole budget cycle in a Guide to Public Participation. GIFT’s strategy for 2018-2020 is to ‘put the citizen at the centre of fiscal transparency’, by focusing, for instance, on the availability and accessibility of budget information at the individual service delivery unit level (e.g. school or health center), to foster citizen monitoring, on-going direct interactions with service recipients and local communities, and more effective accountability.

Finally, looking ahead, it is interesting to note that, while OBS results suggest that progress on increasing the disclosure of budget information has stalled for the first time since the launch of the Open Budget Index (OBI) in 2006, this is less true for countries that are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). For the 102 countries that were in both the 2015 and 2017 surveys, the average change in OBI scores was -2% – although this decline in part reflects the fact that the 2017 survey introduced a more demanding requirement that all documents be available on government web sites rather than in hard copy[2]. Leaving that aside, for the 52 OGP member countries covered by the OBS the average change in score was -0.7, while for non-OGP members the average change was – 3.1.[3] The relative difference across the two groups remains largely the same even if OECD countries are removed from both groups.

 

The significance of this with respect to public participation is that the OGP is built on a co-creation model in which governments and civil society work together. Around a third of all the commitments made by OGP member governments are fiscal transparency commitments, many of which involve direct public engagement in one form or another. The OGP recognizes that fiscal transparency resides at the very core of open government.  GIFT and the OGP Support Unit have been working together since 2012 through peer to peer technical collaboration workshops (Fiscal Openness Working Group), bringing ministry of finance officials and in-country CSOs together to encourage the adoption of more ambitious commitments to fiscal openness, and to support them in implementing their commitments. In a world where there has been some shrinking of civic space, expanding membership of the OGP, and providing more support for OGP members, offers an important way forward.

Murray Petrie, GIFT Lead Technical Advisor

 

[1] See Principle 2.3.3 in the IMF Code, and the section on Openness and Civic Engagement in the OECD Budget Transparency Toolkit.

[2] To the extent that countries have shifted from hard copy publication of budget documents and fiscal reports to web-based publication, there has been an unmeasured increase in the accessibility of budget information. Some countries also published hard copy documents for the first time that would previously have been recognized by the OBS. In addition, some countries have improved the accessibility and ease of understanding of fiscal information on web sites through setting up Fiscal Data Portals (See: Materials used during the Fiscal Transparency Portals Workshop, Jakarta 2016).

[3] This analysis excludes the three countries that have withdrawn from the OGP.

International Practices to Promote Budget Literacy

GIFT_postSponsored by the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation

The World Bank Global Governance Practiced just published the study “International Practices to Promote Budget Literacy, Key Findings and Lessons learned”, by Harika Masud, Helene Pfeil, Sanjay Agarwal and Alfredo Gonzalez Briseño. I was invited to share some comments on the study at a seminar in the Bank. One first remark about the study is that the reader, even if a specialist on public finance management, will by surprised by the amount of very exciting information on budget literacy at the school level around the world! Indeed, I learned very much about the international practices of a very relevant topic.

The way the subject is treated is very illustrative, informative and useful for practitioners. This is music for the ears of the GIFT community as it is directly related to the crucial issues of access to budget information, citizen engagement and public participation. A global trend of increasing fiscal transparency is resulting in expanding opportunities for citizens to participate in the budget cycle, and governments are increasingly recognizing the role and long-term benefits of budget literacy. This is a relevant topic about which there was very little knowledge until this work was undertaken and published.

 

Why is this study so important?

Many reasons explain the importance of this review of practices.  It addresses the demand side of fiscal information. For many years, policy makers, legislators, decision makers, have been working on the supply side of budget information. Years of proactively disclosing significant amounts of fiscal information. And yet, there has been little use of it. This refers to what the authors call the budget transparency feedback loop, when citizens are not budget-literate and when they lack the capacity to analyze and discuss budgets, which “is necessary for them to engage in meaningful dialogues with their governments”.

As such, it makes the case about the role that governments must have in sharing not only information, but also sharing knowledge, which entails training public servants and the public, for public participation. The Russian experience, for example, documents well how crucial it is to develop the competences of the teachers for success.

The study also shows that budget literacy education has different objectives, pedagogic approaches, and from there, different outcomes: from tax compliance to civic awareness, including accountability pressure, and practical skills for daily life issues. There are different results of budget education, depending on approaches and methods, the same way there are different motivations, approaches, and results, of citizen engagement. This is something specialists and policy makers tend to forget.  Different ways of citizen engagement take us to community control, better understanding the demand of public services, better allocation and implementation or resources, so on and so forth.

Very importantly, the study also shows that governments, even when they are actively addressing the strategic issue of budget literacy education, rarely address the objective that, from my perspective, should be at the core of fiscal transparency and citizen engagement: to provide better public services, to include and ensure access to the goods and services citizens are entitled to, to improve people’s lives.

 

Main features of the study

The study provides a review of illustrative examples of initiatives promoting budget literacy among young students in selected countries. It aims to raise the profile of budget literacy in discussions about curricula and fill the existing literature gap by documenting a variety of practices that promote budget literacy in a collection of 35 case studies from 34 countries.

The document provides a comparative perspective, as it analyses systematically the national context, curricular content, learning outcomes, pedagogical approaches, and materials used for school-based initiatives to promote budget literacy. Aimed at practitioners, experts and policy makers, it emphasizes the pedagogical approaches, results and implications of literacy initiatives intended to strengthen citizen’s awareness and engagement on budget. To the question on the incentives for the governments to embark in such complicated project, the authors respond: the need to educate citizens on tax compliance and the idea of citizen co-responsibility on good management of public resources.

The study shows that budget-literacy education can have various important outcomes. Better knowledge of public budgets, practical skills for daily living, economic competence, civic awareness, including a preference for tax compliance; and improved competency in analytical and numerical skills, among others. Also, development of values and attitudes, such as thinking proactively about participating in the discussion of economic issues and decision-making.

The document illustrates the various approaches for budget literacy education, various pedagogic strategies, with numerous and different objectives and a wide range of materials and methods: Lectures, enquiry learning, simulations and role playing, scenarios analysis, fact-finding and analysis, etc. including field visits, games, cartoons, and media programs. Quite remarkable are the exercises of participatory budgeting at the school level in France, Canada. Germany and Poland, as well as the example of the Russian Federation with various strategies at play. From this perspective, coalitions are crucial for shaping projects that end up delivering good results: the role of non-governmental actors in these efforts (parents, CSO, etc.) and in pushing the agenda for budget literacy education, including the curricula, are very important.

On the chapter of lessons learned, the document makes a series of very practical and evidenced based recommendations.  A central one is to clearly establish the objectives of budget literacy education. I found the most compelling to be the one links budget literacy and public service delivery. In addition to the value of their educative implications, the document makes the case that emphasis should be put in better management of public resources and improved service delivery as a result of informed citizens engagement, closing of the budget transparency feedback loop over progressive budget cycles.

 

A final thought for the discussion

Let me go back to the feedback loop here. It is true that there is generally insignificant interest on budget information; I also agree that there is little capacity for independent analysis and for a subsequent productive engagement. But the dialogue is only possible when the conditions on all sides are propitious. In fact, there are little points of contact between supply and demand: few points of entry, lack of a common language and sometimes, too much information that makes little sense. There is not really a dialogue between producers and users of fiscal information, and this cannot only be explained by the lack of an informed and analytical stands on the demand side. Other studies have shown that the demand exists, it is strong, structured, and consistent. (see to study of Mastruzzi and De Renzio, here)

As you know, GIFT has developed principles for public participation, which is defined as a fundamental right. This document is very relevant to public participation, as it underlines the importance of an informed public that is capable to engage in a meaningful way in the dialogue with authorities on budget issues. But the open avenues, the required civic space, the inclusiveness, the timeliness, the accessibility and sustainability of citizen engagement are also required. We know that participatory budgets work because they are processes that empower communities to decide on how to spend public resources. We know communities, when compelled to have access to public resources, try to find the ways to express their preferences. And we know that the most informed and educated people will not engage, unless they really need to, and it is possible. In all cases, what is crucial for the fiscal transparency loop to become a virtual circle, where the right to public participation is observed, is to include the institutional arrangements to ensure than anyone, when needed, can effectively exercise such a right.

 

Juan Pablo Guerrero Amparán, GIFT’s Network Director.