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Unseen developing, realistic, balanced budget

budžet2019The draft budget for Serbia for 2019 has been praised in almost all media, although no one has seen it, because it has not yet been published on the web site of the Government of Serbia.

Namely, as one of the main news, the media announced that the government adopted a draft budget for 2019 on November 20, and mostly self-praising of the Ministry of Finance and the Government for the quality of that budget were passed - that it was "developmental, realistic, balanced" is "aimed at improving the quality of life of citizens", "investing in capital projects", and "encouraging further growth of the economy". 

However, even at the moment when the news about the adoption of the budget appeared in the media, even 15 hours later, at the moment of writing this text, the draft law on the budget for 2019 was not published on the web site of the Government of Serbia, so the accuracy of the budget quality assessment, and even the accuracy of basic data can not be verified. To remind, the first electronic session of the Government was held in the time of Mirko Cvetkovic, almost a decade ago. Printed draft laws have not been considered in these sessions for a long time, which should be redrafted after the session if there were some changes and scanned for publication.

Everything that was adopted at the Government session can be published almost at the same time on its web site too.  

While delays in the publication of adopted documents are measured for hours or days, delays in adoption are measured in months. Thus, for the adoption of the Fiscal Strategy, the document containing the data relevant to the preparation of the budget and plans for the next three years, the Government had the deadline of 15 June, but it is not known whether even a draft of this document was made. 

The Ministry of Finance had a deadline by October 15 to submit a draft law on the budget to the Government, so that the Government would have 15 days to consider the document.

On the website of the Ministry of Finance, the draft of the most important law was not published, so the public was not available for submitting comments and suggestions, and it is unknown if it was available to the members of the Government.

The Government itself had the time to submit the draft Budget Law to the Parliament by November 1, and that deadline was violated for the fifth time in a row.

This year, the deadline has been broken for 20 days, which is somewhat better than the previous years. Thus, MPs will have 25, instead of 45 days, to consider several thousand pages of the text of the budget, explanations and accompanying laws, if they wait until the final date prescribed by the Budget System Law.

Of course, if the discussion time is spent on the explanation of meaningless amendments, in accordance with the practice that the ruling majority of MPs have begun just about budgeting a year ago, it will not be beneficial. 

Transparency - Serbia recalls that the delay in passing key budget documents is the main reason for Serbia's poor placement in the international survey, the Open Budget Index. According to the latest published Open Budget Index, from January 2018, Serbia took 62nd place out of 115 countries, with only 43 of 100 possible points.

P.S. (November 23rd) It needed three days for the law proposal, as it was passed, the Government of Serbia has "adopted" at the session of 20 November 2018, exceeded one kilometer of distance to the National Assembly. The budget proposal has arrived in Parliament and is available on the Assembly's website.

How much deputies, as representatives of citizens, can say about the budget will depend on and whether the SNS members will again submit meaningless amendments, which they explain and then withdraw before the plea, whose sole purpose is to prevent the debate.  

Citizens did not get an opportunity to speak directly about the budget even this time. On this occasion, program director TS Nemanja Nenadic said that the impression is that there are people in the government who are in charge of completely different policies.

Months ago, TS welcomed the adoption of the Law on Local Self-Government which, among other things, says that public debates on local budgets will be required, and now we have at the republic level, where the most money is spent, completely denying the possibility that the public tells anything about time about the budget of Serbia.

After the Government of Serbia deprived the MPs of the legal right to consider the budget for the next year for at least 45 days, by submitting it on November 23, 2018, instead of November 1, as required by the Budget System Law, the Assembly is preparing to almost completely give up the right to argument discuss about the Government's proposals.

Namely, the President of the National Assembly, Maja Gojkovic, scheduled a session on which the budget should be discussed and another sixty-one act for November 27!

Bearing in mind that all these acts are in some way related to the budget proposal, there is a real danger of repeated practice and that all these acts are led by a consolidated debate with a limited time (600 minutes) for discussing all the amendments submitted to them. As it was first shown just when the current budget was adopted and confirmed at all Assembly sessions after that, it can be assumed that such a shortened discussion time will be used to explain the meaningless amendments.