By Aya Nader
The government needs to move beyond merely providing citizens with the state budget to seeking their participation, said Minister of Finance Hany Dimian during a workshop on the second issuance of the citizen budget.
“This workshop comes as a step to integrate the citizen into decision-making,” Dimian said on Tuesday.
Citizens are to have a say in deciding, for example, if an area needs a hospital or a school, and if another area needs a bridge or not, the minister stated. The government will even provide children with an understanding of the budget through cartoon booklets, Dimian said.
The Budget Law requires amendment, Dimian said, noting that the last amendment took place in 2005.
This merge comes in light of the “success in decreasing the unemployment rate, moving the economy from a recession stage, and giving the government more trust quarter after quarter [of the 2014/2015 fiscal year]”, according to the minister.
The minister said that the World Bank is to survey the interests and needs of citizens.
Meanwhile, World Bank’s Practice Manager of Governance Global Practice Hesham Waly stated that government accountability and transparency is greatly related to the citizen budget. The more effective they are in a country, the higher it ranks on the Human Development Index.
“Citizens need to specify which sectors the amounts of government spending should go to … and the government has to change its old policies,” said Mohamed Farouk, Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies.
There will be a mobile application through which the people can specify priorities and reports going directly to the parliament to work on, announced Farouk.
Resetting priorities will eventually lead to the shrinking of the budget deficit and then self-financing, explained the minister.
The haves should give the have-nots, and personal investment is to aid the process, he said, using the New Suez Canal method of money collection as an example.
However, the government faces several challenges, among which is merging the private sector in policy-making, regional equality and information availability outside Cairo, and providing the citizen with the know-how of understanding the state budget, according to Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies’ Ayman Abdel Wahab.
Tuesday’s workshop was among a series of workshops initiated by the Pre-Budget Workshop on 26 March that was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank. The Ministry of Finance intends to make the budgetary process more transparent, inclusive and responsive, said Senior Economist at the ministry Sara Eid.