Uruguay’s new Budget Transparency Portal sets a world class example
Uruguay's Budget Transparency Portal, launched on September 27, introduces several innovations regarding information previously found in various government portals. It presents for the first time in a one-stop site and in an accessible form information of the expenditure of the public enterprises, of the public non-state parties that provide public services, and links performance indicators and policy evaluations with the allocations of the expenditure. In a promising way, it links the program goals, from now on, with the Sustainable Development Goals, which will soon be seen as an example for many other countries.
At the launching event, GIFT’s Network Director, Juan Pablo Guerrero, congratulated the Office of Planning and Budget’s (OPP in Spanish) team, headed by Álvaro García, for the results of their effort to translate the complexities of the budget into user-friendly formats and language, and with simple illustrations. The portal greatly contributes to the realization of the right to know in Uruguay, by explaining to the taxpayer how public money is being spent. Another remarkable aspect of this portal is that all along its design, crafting and development, the OPP engaged potential users to take into consideration their needs, preferences and capacities. Thus, civil society organizations, students, businesspeople, journalists and public servants, among others, have contributed to this effort. To maintain this dialogue with users for their permanent feedback will be fundamental to continue providing the relevant information in the most effective formats.
The GIFT network contributed to this effort by offering peer support to colleagues at the OPP, a GIFT Steward, and bringing the experiences of other countries closer. Indeed, the teams from Mexico’s Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit and from Brazil’s Comptroller General of the Nation –two GIFT Stewards--shared with generosity their experience of more than 10 years of informing the public about the destination of public resources through portals. From these models, since 2015, GIFT generated a working group that included Uruguay along with South Africa, Indonesia and Paraguay, and has recently been joined by El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
Without a doubt, the GIFT network has in Uruguay’s portal an example from which peers will be able to learn extensively.
GIFT stewards at the Roundtable on Fiscal Transparency and Sovereign Credit Ratings
On September 21, GIFT’s Steward, the Emerging Markets Investors Alliance, gathered credit rating agencies (Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s), policy experts, and investors to discuss how to promote greater understanding of why and how fiscal transparency related risks are factored into the debt ratings of emerging market governments and into investment decisions; and to examine whether and how alternative rating methodological approaches and data that increase the importance of fiscal transparency factors in credit rating assessments might improve the default-risk predictability of sovereign bond ratings.
Credit rating agencies were asked to reflect on issues such as what are the aspects of fiscal transparency (e.g., budget and balance-sheet reporting and accounting; off-budget activities; future liabilities; contingent liabilities) that sovereign credit ratings credibly capture — and what fiscal transparency aspects are more problematic for ratings. Investors were asked to discuss aspects like the degree to which fiscal transparency issues are important in investment decisions; and how, if at all, do investors assess fiscal transparency factors beyond relying solely on much broader sovereign credit-risk ratings. In turn, policy experts gave though to ways in which credit rating agencies and the policy-expert community may strengthen investors’ ability to assess fiscal transparency risks; and the leading approaches and best data available to make cross-country comparisons of key aspects of fiscal transparency.
The meeting, which included the presence of representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and IBP, allowed participants to agree on future conversations on the links between fiscal transparency, risk assessment and trust in budget sustainability, all crucial elements for credit worthiness of sovereign bonds.
New Cross-study “International Practices to Promote Budget Literacy”
World Bank’s Harika Masud, Sanjay Agarwal, and Alfredo Gonzalez Briseno undertook a cross-country study ‘International Practices to Promote Budget Literacy’. This study presents findings from a review of illustrative examples of initiatives promoting budget literacy among youth 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.”
Study on Tax and Trust just out
GIFT Steward, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), along with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand recently released an in-depth study of tax and trust. The new study G20 Public Trust in Tax surveyed more than 7,600 people across G20 countries on issues of trust and international taxation.
Some of the key findings include: • people want governments to put tax cooperation ahead of tax competition—73% of people in G20 countries think it is important or very important for governments to cooperate with each other on tax policy to create a more coherent international tax system; • 57% of people in G20 countries trust or highly trust professional tax accountants as a source of information about the tax system; and • in contrast, people in G20 countries have become deeply distrustful of politicians when it comes to information about the tax system, with 67% either distrusting or highly distrusting politicians.
Article on public participation in budgeting in Brazil
Public Finance International just published an article on public participation in budgeting in Brazil, featuring Paolo de Renzio (IBP) and Murray Petrie (GIFT). The article is interesting, both in the principles for public participation and in Paolo de Renzio's views on how the current government is letting the participatory mechanisms lapse during fiscal austerity.
Read the article here. Note: to access the PFI site requires free registration
This case reviews the participatory budgeting (PB) experience in Germany, viewing PB as a process that enables non-elected citizens to take part in prioritizing or allocating public funds. Participatory budgeting takes place at the city level (or municipality), and, in Germany, is typically consultative, rather than providing citizens with a direct influence over decision-making. It calls upon citizens to contribute and discuss their proposals on expenditure and cost saving measures. It usually makes use of an online platform, and promotes accountability by providing information on how citizen proposals and inputs were taken into account.
More and more local authorities are introducing participatory procedures for their municipal budget in Germany. By doing so they are giving citizens an opportunity to contribute and discuss their ideas on how the municipality should spend its money. As in nearly all other countries, so far, there has been no PB at the federal or state level in Germany.
These practices illustrate the principles of being open, inclusive, respectful of self-expression, timely, rich in quality information, sustainable, and complementary.
On October 10-11, GIFT Stewards will have the 2017 second meeting. The meeting objectives are: 1) to continue and deepen the exchange on open data, learning from the experience of the US Federal Government in implementing a model of budget information disclosure in open data to comply with the Open Data Act; 2) to start a conversation on the relevance of transparency and public participation in tax policy, convinced that in order to address the full range of opportunities and trade-offs involved in budget policymaking it is paramount to start also addressing the revenue side of the fiscal equation; and finally, 3) to provide a space for detailed discussions on the work of some Stewards on transparency and anti-corruption, addressing granularity aspects of budget administrative classification data, and the Information Technology Working Group work plan.