Making Public Finance Public: Comparing Croatia, Macedonia, and Ukraine
In: Making Public Finance Public: Subnational Budget Watch in Croatia, Macedonia, and Ukraine
This chapter is about making public finance public and it gives a comparative basis to the subnational budget watch project that took place in Croatia, Macedonia, and Ukraine. It is based on a grant organized and funded by the Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative of the Open Society Institute–Budapest. The following questions have informed the structure of this project concerned with the disbursal of funds within local government budgets and subsequent monitoring by civil society actors like nongovernmental organizations as well as private citizens who ideally form into what this project loosely calls the subnational budget watch. In short, as its basis, this study asks: (i) Are citizens participating? Does legislation enable them to participate? Are there institutional arrangements for participation? (ii) Are budget data available, reliable, and timely? Could one compare actual with planned figures? (iii) Is it clear who is accountable for what? Does the executive branch of the government take in consideration external auditors’ reports and/or requests from the legislative branch? Irrespective of the opportunities for participation, of the availability, reliability, and timeliness of data, and of the accountability of governments to citizens, all three countries show poor participation and understanding of the concepts that support such subnational budget watch initiatives that are more substantial in more mature democratic models than those present in post-communist transition states. In order to de-alienate citizens and to demystify the budget and bring it closer to the populations concerned, further research and advocacy is needed. Like this study, it should raise awareness of the importance of the transparency of the budget, accountability of governments, and the participation of citizens, particularly at lower levels of government. Models and action plans vary from the establishment of monitoring committees in Croatia and strengthening the independence of budgetary users in Ukraine, to addressing citizens with reader-friendly budget guides in Macedonia.
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