A Success Story: Institute of Public Finance, Croatia
The Institute of Public Finance (IJF), a non-profit, research institution in Zagreb, Croatia has worked for almost thirty years with issues related to the public budget. The Croatian budget process has been substantially reformed over the last few years and public knowledge about the process is generally poor. In part for this reason, IJF researchers Katarina Ott, Anto Bajo and Mihaela Pitarevic have written a basic guide to the Croatian budget: “A Citizen’s Guide to the Budget.”
The guide provides a general introduction to the budget. It analyzes the various fundamental aspects of national and local budgets; including revenues, expenditures, extra-budgetary funds, and the consolidated budget of the general government. The guide also describes the budgetary process, the main institutions engaged in the process, and the basic budget stages – preparation, planning, debating, and approval, and then execution, implementation, supervision and control – . It also provides a glossary of budgetary terms and an appendix on the taxes of Croatia.
IJF has distributed 2,500 hard copies of the guide free of charge to individuals in parliament, government ministries, public enterprises, the business sector, media, universities, and the broader public. The guide has been widely quoted, discussed and commented upon in the Croatian media, and will hopefully have an impact on policy through a more informed debate on budget issues. The guide was published at the same time as the executive’s budget proposal for the next financial year was discussed in parliament. One of the members of the parliament stood up, flashing the guide, and said to the deputy minister of finance: “Now we don’t have to listen to you anymore, we have a guide!”
Featured Report: Transparency and Participation in the Budget Process
“Transparency and Participation in the Budget Process. South Africa. A Country Report” is a joint effort between the Institute for Democracy in South Africa and the IBP. Prepared by Alta Fölscher, Warren Krafchik and Isaac Shapiro, this revised version examines, within the South African context, the importance of fiscal transparency and participation of legislatures and civil society in government decision-making processes for better budgetary outcomes. Bound copies of this report have just returned from the printers. This new version makes an additional effort to clarify conceptual issues and explain the research method and tools for adaptation by other groups. The questionnaire used is included as an appendix.
The paper develops a methodology and investigates levels of budget and fiscal transparency in South Africa. The central argument is that transparency on budgetary decisions is necessary to improve policy decisions and to hold governments to account. It is, however, not sufficient. Participation by such democratic institutions is required just as it is required from civil society, legislatures and the media in order to make transparency effective in bringing about better budgetary outcomes.
The document investigates the legal framework for transparency, the clarity of sub-national roles and responsibilities, the availability of comprehensive, timely, accurate and useful information, the checks and balances supporting transparency during budget implementation, and the openness of the budget process.
The paper finds that whereas levels of transparency have improved considerably since the change in government in 1994, several areas are still of concern, such as the clarity of sub-national roles, procurement regulations, the implementation of new pro-transparency legislation, and the definition of legislature roles. It also points out that pro-transparency regulations are not consolidated, nor is there one agency responsible for enforcing these regulations. It finds that participation, while it has improved, is still lagging transparency.
New on the IBP Website
By Albert van Zyl
This budget dictionary was compiled by Albert van Zyl from the Budget Information Service of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. The concepts included appeared unclear to members of the national parliament and were drawn from budget documentation.