Economist say obscurities in budget handling could overburden tax payers
CAIRO: Egypt is one of six countries that keep their constituents in the dark about the state of their budgets until they are adopted, according to a new study released on Wednesday.
The International Budget Project, formed with the private Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released the first Open Budget Initiative 2006, an index of 59 countries detailing how well they open their budget books to the general public.
Economist Galal Amin said that there are “a lot of obscurities in the way the national budget is handled.
“The planned expenditure and revenues are approved too quickly. The discussion of actual expenditure and revenues are discussed too quickly, Amin told The Daily Star Egypt in reference to the parliamentary discussions of the national budget.”There is no sufficient [public] access to the budget, he added.
Amin says that the swift discussions of the budget allow the government to spend and collect revenues “as it likes, which can exert a burden on the source of revenue: the taxpayers.
This also gives the government the opportunity to “be too extravagant in the wrong places and mean in what is needed, he added. There is no proof that the expenditures were made as planned, he said.
The lack of access to information is a sign of unwillingness to be accountable to your citizens, an unwillingness to engage in a debate about a government s financial activities, said Pamela Gomez, project director for the study.
Egypt, Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mongolia and Vietnam bar any public participation in their budget deliberations, while 25 of the countries polled fail to hold public hearings on the budget, the study showed.
Of the countries surveyed, 39 percent provide either minimal, scant or no information to citizens on their country s budget, the group said.
The study s finding shows a very large number of countries produce the information but do not make it available to the public, Gomez said, adding that they are producing it for internal use or for reporting to donors.
Access to information on government financial activity in their budget is absolutely crucial to control corruption, crucial to improving delivery of services and essential for democratic accountability, Gomez said.
Insufficient disclosure of the budget, Amin explained, “. doesn’t give the parliament the opportunity to discuss the mistakes of the government and blame whoever is responsible . for the wrong handling of revenues.
The country survey consisted of 122 questions and was conducted by non-governmental researchers or research organizations. The work was completed in October 2005.