Improving Budget Openness and Transparency with the Working Group on Budget Literacy in Warsaw

May 27th, 2015 by CIVIX

How can a country improve its budget openness and transparency? Is it enough to make budget documents publicly available on a website? These questions were at the heart of a budget literacy workshop I attended behalf of CIVIX last week in Warsaw, Poland.

The workshop was organized by and the World Bank’s resource team and PEMPAL’s Working Group on Budget Literacy, with the objective of learning from international experiences and raising budget literacy among citizens in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The participating countries included Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Kosovo, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

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In recent years, enhancing budget openness has been priority for these countries, and they now commonly publish budget information online. But because this information can be tricky to understand, even for those working in the field, simply publishing it online isn’t enough to truly engage citizens.

This is why improving budget literacy among citizens is a key component of an open and transparent budget process. There are several approaches to improving budget literacy, but one of the most effective ways is to teach it in school. This is what CIVIX does with the Student Budget Consultation, and it was out of desire to hear about our efforts at improving budget literacy among Canadian youth that I was invited to speak at the workshop.

My presentation, which was similar to one I gave last month in Moscow, focused on how the Student Budget Consultation complements our Student Vote program by teaching students about government revenues and expenditures, and I highlighted the positive impact on both students and teachers. To give the participants a real taste of the program, I also showed some of the educational videos featuring the Minister of Finance, stakeholder groups, and the leaders of the opposition parties.

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The presentation sparked a good discussion, and there were several questions about the size of the CIVIX team, the impact of our programs on parents, and our ability to get major political players involved. The participants were quite impressed with the involvement of the Minister of Finance and the opposition leaders, and they felt it added credibility to the program.

The workshop also included an interesting presentation on budget literacy in the United Kingdom delivered by Maureen Pamplin, who is head of Sustainability at HM Revenue & Customs. She spoke about the Tax Facts Teaching Resource which will be launched later this year as part of the national curriculum. Like the Student Budget Consultation, this program involves a series of videos targeting youth, and learning about the similarities and differences between it and the Student Budget Consultation was a valuable experience, particularly as the institutions in Britain and Canada are so similar.

While in Warsaw, I also did get to do a bit sightseeing, including the reconstructed Old Town (it had been destroyed during WWII), the Palace of Culture and Science, and the Warsaw Uprising Monument.  

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There are no other performances currently scheduled for the CIVIX Student Budget Consultation European Spring Tour, but I will continue to be working in Geneva, and who knows where I will be next!

Paul Anderson
CIVIX European Bureau Chief

Posted in English, Student Budget Consultation |

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