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DBM pushes for greater budget transparency

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman has reiterated the importance of budget transparency after the Philippines slipped eight notches in a budget transparency survey for 2021, although the country still maintained its lead in Southeast Asia.

“It is vital that we realize that open government does not only benefit the system, rather its advantage cascades to different sectors of society. It creates more stable conditions to incentivize investments from the private sector, sets the stage for ensuring public trust, and strengthens the country’s democratic institution’s principles,” Pangandaman said recently during the 2021 Open Budget Survey Public Forum organized by the La Salle Institute of Governance, together with the International Budget Partnership and Stratbase ADR Institute.

Results of the 2021 OBS show that the Philippines was able to maintain its lead in Southeast Asia despite a decline in its score. The Philippines scored 68 out of 100 in budget transparency, placing the country at the 19th rank out of 120 countries. In the previous round of the OBS in 2019, the Philippines got a score of 76 and ranked 10th.

Pangandaman stressed DBM’s commitment to open and participatory government and its intent to take OBS recommendations to improve budget processes.

“We are also committed to continuing working toward an open and participatory government as we chair the Philippine Open Government Partnership Stating committee. Furthermore, we will take the recommendations of the OBS to heart and study the feasibility of introducing this in our processes,” she said.

Suad Hasan of the International Budget Partnership (IBP) expressed hope that the Philippines would increase its efforts to improve budget transparency after falling out of the top 10 performers in the 2021 OBS.

“We, in the open budget survey team, give the Philippines examples of budget documentation, especially of your citizens’ budget, very often [in presentations to other countries], and there are some really clear and simple measures to be taken that I’m sure would put the Philippines back in the top 10 performers. I am optimistic here,” Hasan said.

She further highlighted the joint congressional review committee formed during the pandemic as one of the Philippines’ initiatives for budget accountability reforms.

“This is an example of how we shared best practices from amongst countries and we also encouraged all countries to usher in a race to the top by disclosing more and more information, especially around debt and financial risk and make these accountability reforms permanent,” she said.

La Salle Institute of Governance senior fellow Francisco Magno, who serves as the OBS independent expert for the Philippines, presented the survey results and discussed that the OBS provides data and information to the public regarding the budget processes.

“It [OBS] indicates where we are currently when it comes to the availability of information, the timeliness of its publication, and the content, especially the budget; it’s a public document, it’s people’s money, how it is used, and how it can be an important resource for enabling us to achieve our policy goals.”

He also explained the importance of digitalization for budget transparency.

“The gold standard nowadays for effective budget transparency is digitalization, providing information on public websites, the timeliness of the information, and the comprehensiveness of the content, including the eight key budget documents,” Magno said.

While the Philippines’ budget transparency score remains at a sufficient level, experts and government officials still see the need to improve budget mechanisms to develop public access and open government further.

AMENAH PANGANDAMAN

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