Consultation workshop on Citizen Engagement for Effective Budget Policies
Tirana, 16/04/2018 - 16:33, UNIQUE ID: 180416_12
Speeches of the Ambassador
Dear distinguished participants,
Happy to be here, it is extremely important to discuss all issues that are linked with transparent use of public money.
The objective of citizen's budget is to increase transparency and therefore empower citizens.
Information is power. It is a right, but also a responsibility.
It is still a fact that state institutions and citizens do not have access to the same information. The state is supposed to act in the interest of the public and citizens need to be given the tools to hold authorities accountable. Legislation on access to information, public consultations and citizen's budgets are essential here.
The question is how it is implemented.
But too often the language of budgets and numbers is foreign to many of us "non-specialists". A good Citizen's Budget translates figures into stories in every-day language and pictures that are easy to read for every interested citizen.
For example, a citizen's budget for education explains the objective behind the costs: improving the curriculum, training teachers, building better schools – It also uses charts that are immediately understandable.
A citizen's budget is not just a piece of paper but it gives you power to advocate for policy choices. This can be done through neighbourhood assemblies, town hall meetings, thematic or sectoral assemblies, national budget hearings, and of course the internet.
More transparent budget allows for comparisons between towns, regions or country. Knowing the planned cost per km of road construction allows comparing and lobbying for more cost-effective spending. Clarity on the amount of money spent per student allows for a more informed debate on primary education.
In that sense, it is also an essential empowering tool to fight against corruption.
Many countries have positive experiences with citizen's budgets, especially at the level of municipalities where citizens feel a direct link with outputs on the ground.
At the central government, it is very important for governments to explain objectives, constraints and proposed expenditures, so that citizens understand what are the trade-offs and the priorities… as there will never be enough money to fund all ideas.
In Albania, the EU has pushed for improvement in the public management of finances for years. Citizen budgeting is one of our priorities, because it is of pivotal importance for the transformation of the relationship between citizens and the state, as a core of good governance.
The process is of course still very young in Albania. It started in 2015 and is still in formative phase. But we want to work even more closely with non-governmental organisations to make public finances more understandable and accountable – and, at the end of the day, to empower all Albanian citizens.