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Serbia has fallen in the openness of the budget

The international survey Open Budged Index (OPI) ranked Serbia on 62th place among 115 countries. That result shows that we are country in which budget documents are not enough open and comprehensive. Among three main fields of survey Serbia is by far  the worst rated in terms of public participation, with only 2 points (world average is 12), and appraisals for Serbia are good only in the category of auditing. In this significant survey for 2017, Serbia received 43 of possible 100 points, which are four smaller than in 2015. Due to the bad score and increase in the number of countries covered, Serbia fell 15 places on the list (in 2015 it ranks 47th out of 102 countries in total).

Transparency Serbia (part of Transparency International) assessed that the main reason for such a bad position in Serbia is the failure to comply with deadlines, due to which neither citizens nor Members of Parliament have enough time to consider key budget documents.

Taken through the experience of adopting the budget of the Republic of Serbia for the year 2018, when the majority of Members of Parliament spent the time available for discussion with meaningless amendments, we recommended to the authors of this survey, with whom we cooperate for years, to evaluate in the future not only whether the legislature has enough time to consider a budget proposal submitted by the executive, but also whether the discussion left enough time for the presentation of all the amendments.

Open budget index is based on 109 indicators that show whether government authorities are preparing eight key budget documents, if they are available to the public and whether the information they contain is comprehensive and useful. It is only the world’s independent and comparative survey that examines the situation in three areas of budgetary responsibility: transparency, supervision and public participation. The results are published every second year, starting in 2006.

Countries with the most transparent budgets this time are New Zeeland and South Africa (89), Sweden (87), Norway (85) and Georgia (82), while the countries with the lowest scores are Saudi Arabia (1), Sudan and Chad (2), Swaziland, Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon (3). Regarding the countries in the region, better score than Serbia have Slovenia (69); Croatia (57) and Albania (50), while worse ranked are Macedonia (37) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (35).

The bad placement of Serbia was mainly influenced by the fact that for years the Government has not submitted a draft law on the final account of the budget, while the budget proposal submitted after the expiration of the prescribed deadline.

Also, the semi-annual report on implementation of the budget in Serbia is insufficiently comprehensive. Therefore, according to the standards of this survey, it is considered that citizens, interest groups and professional public did not have timely information, nor could they influence the preparation of the budget.

 Therefore, the main recommendations for Serbia are related to compliance with the Law on the Budget System in terms of deadlines for production of key documents and their publication. The semi-annual report should be completed with macroeconomic forecasts, in accordance with international standards, and the “civil budget” should be published earlier.

The correction of the index of Serbia would influence the involvement of the public and experts in the process of drafting budget through public hearing, as well as increasing the public’s role in the audit process.

The Government would, by the standards of this survey, should submit to the parliament a budget proposal at least two months before the new budget year. On the other hand, Parliament should control of the budget and to provide conditions for independent auditing.

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