Posted by Greg Rosenberg
Many countries produce voluminous budget documentation, with reports that run for hundreds of pages, and thousands of pages of raw data. The main documents form a verbose, jargon-heavy, disjointed collection of policies, spending programs, and irrelevant or marginally relevant details, with little analysis of macroeconomic or fiscal trends. In a few countries, the story is different. The budget documents are concise and plainly written. They focus on relevant information, with frank analysis of expenditure and revenue trends, and explain clearly how public finances are being managed.
Producing transparent budget documents requires policy makers to explain complex concepts to a range of audiences. Doing so has tangible benefits. Clear, transparent budget documents can strengthen policy impact, fiscal planning, legislative oversight, and citizen involvement. Such reports enable policy makers to send signals about developing economic and fiscal trends, helping to shape public debate and foreshadowing future responses.
An open budget that acknowledges economic and fiscal realities, in a way that is easily understood, supports accountability and effective budget planning. It enables civil society organizations to engage with the budget. This, in turn, strengthens the social contract between citizens and the state. And, crucially, the act of clear writing itself helps finance ministries to refine their own thinking on budget strategy and policy, leading to better and more coherent policy choices.
All of this may sound elementary, but experience suggests that it is not.