Dar es Salaam Declaration: no need to play hide and seek with public

Making national budget public is the only road ahead available for those territories who have played hide and seek with their citizens for decades. Greater inclusive budgetary process and relationship of accountability between government, civil societies and citizens is the only way forward to clear the mess that had been accumulated till date. The idea of considering citizens as passive receiver of relief goods and few kilograms of wheat or rice may become obsolete sooner or later. Considering citizens poor or stupid, who could be convinced by false promises and who could bow with begging bowl loyalty,  may not work at this transcendental age. It’s not really the time to bow for his/her excellency with no apparent improvement for the societies, its time for justice and accountability.

According to Dar es Salaam Declaration, “We are citizens and civil society organizations from around the globe, united by the shared conviction that inclusive and open public budgets are critical to achieving a world in which all human beings enjoy their full human rights – civil, political, social, economic, cultural and environmental.” It had been found that civil society engagement in the budgetary process could truly improve the outcome as well as lives of people. Public budget is all about public asset, thus, its fundamental right and responsibility of people to take part in this process. Budget should tell us about social equity and empowerment not just giving away few kilograms of wheat or rice to the begging bowl.

It is often observed in the miserable nations that most marginalized are excluded participating from budgetary process, and sometime able civil societies do not have access or influence over the process. Hence, public budget must be transparent, inclusive, effective, equitable and accurate; most importantly there should be monitoring mechanism so as accountability by  audit institutions, media and citizens. According to International Budget Partnership (IBP), a global research and advocacy program,

If you want to fight poverty, you need to care about government budgets. As the specific plans for how public funds will be raised and spent, budgets are the government’s most powerful tool to meet the needs and priorities of a country and its people.

Open Budget Partnership released Open Budget Survey 2010, and according to this report 74 of the 94 countries assessed fail to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability with national budgets, which means these countries have had doors open for abuse, corruption and reckless use of public money. Poor transparency and accountability in government spending really matters and it indicates what extent a country is submerged in greed so as corruption.

However, according to the survey, in South Asia, out of 100 India scored 67 so as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh 48, Nepal 45, Pakistan 38 and Afghanistan 21. Therefore, Bangladesh provides some information to public in its budget documents during the year, India provides significant information to the public, and Afghanistan provide minimal information to the public. Countries providing extensive budget information are South Africa, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. The worst performers providing little or no information on public money include China, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, and Iraq.

The paradigm of hides and seek play with budget process and keeping public in dark on spending their money seemingly appears obsolete because media, civil society and citizens across the globe are revolutionizing ‘participatory, accountable and transparent budgetary process’. Governments need to understand such change and should publish online all the budget information and should meet other requirements of international standards besides ensuring meaningful public participation in the budget process.

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