Public participation in decision-making stressed

LAHORE: Public participation in the decision-making process of the government on various issues, mainly the annual budgets, is the key feature of democracy.

This was a consensus among the participants in the launch of a study on budget-making process at district level unanimously on Tuesday.

The study, conducted and circulated by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), in collaboration with the Citizens Network for Budget Accountability (CNBA), contains an analysis of budget making in all districts of Punjab.

The CNBA is a network of 23 civil society organisations working for promotion of transparency and accountability in the budget-making process to ensure citizens participatory budgeting at local level.

“Public pressure can make the elected representatives accountable and responsive to the needs of the people. Budget making is also a key government task and participation of public in it can address the governance issues,” Syed Kausar Abbas, CPDI programme manager, said while giving a presentation.

He said active involvement of the public and stakeholders could only be achieved through an informed civil society. One reason for close and restricted budget-making in Pakistan was the fact that people were unaware of their rights and responsibilities.

“People in general have very little opportunity to participate in the budget process and thus are unable to change their living standards directly,” Mr Abbas said, adding that the CNBA carried out interviews of executive district officers of finance and planning through an online mobile-based survey. The survey questionnaire was designed to analyse the budget-making process under the Punjab Budget Rules 2003. He said according to the International Budget Partnership (an international organization which collaborates with civil society around the world), the budget analysis and advocacy could be used as a tool to improve effective governance and reduce poverty.

Speaking on the occasion, Punjab director (budget) Javaid Iqbal said the district government system was in clash with the provincial government on various issues. He said the MPAs, who considered themselves as more authoritative than the Nazims, didn’t bother even to sit with the respective authorities during budget preparations.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

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