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December 24, 2007

Are we asking the right questions? -- Embedding a Medium-Term Perspective in Budgeting

CABRI annual seminar brings together African Budget Directors

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Posted by Ian Lienert

During December 13–15, 2007, the 4th annual seminar of the Collaborative African Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) was held in Accra, Ghana. The conference brought together high-level budget officials from 23 CABRI member countries, including Egypt for the first time. The conference theme was “Are we asking the right questions? -- Embedding a Medium-Term Perspective in Budgeting.”  Read on to review the five sessions of this year’s conference.

A major aim of this year’s CABRI seminar was to consider the budget policy questions and processes that require a medium-term perspective. In asking questions around the medium term aspects of the budget, both on the revenue and the expenditure side, the aim was to allow the 60 or so participants to better understand and address country-specific complexities of moving from an annual to a multi-year budget processes.

The five sessions of the 2007 seminar focused on:

  1. Legacy systems and legal framework practice in the Francophone and Anglophone traditions. Country studies were presented by budget officials from Burkina Faso and Kenya. These showed how francophone countries have a strong legal framework inherited from France (and promoted by the regional body, WAEMU). Anglophone countries have less attachment to the role of law; nonetheless, the Kenyan parliament is currently increasing its influence in budget decision-making processes, and in this context, prepared its own draft Fiscal Management Act.
  2. Mobilising of domestic revenues. Two parallel session examined: (1) Tax policy and administration; and (2) Solving medium-term fiscal policy puzzles.
  3. Addressing incrementalism and expenditure rigidities. One parallel session examined Capital Budgeting issues, with case studies for South Africa and Botswana presented. A second parallel session examined “Interrogating baselines and setting expenditure ceilings”
  4. Putting Aid on Budget. An overview framework and literature review was presented—the result of a special study commissioned earlier by CABRI.  Two country case studies - Mali and Rwanda – were also discussed. One conclusion was the need to increase the integration of aid management and PFM. There were also animated pleas by some CABRI countries to encourage donor countries to be more willing to replace project aid (that reflect donors’ own priorities) by untargeted budget support.
  5. Joint OECD/CABRI budget practices survey. A questionnaire was presented to participants, who were requested to fill out the survey that replicates the 89 questions used by the OECD, as well as 10 additional questions on aid management.

A presentation by a delegate from Germany, requesting CABRI countries to assist in monitoring the G8’s Action Plan for Good Financial Governance in Africa, did not receive strong endorsement. Some participants wondered how such monitoring would fit in with other initiatives already underway.

The seminar program, as well as direct links to papers presented at the seminar, is available on the CABRI website. The next CABRI seminar will be held in Senegal in December 2008.

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