Governments need to place a bigger focus on fiscal transparency and the ease of understanding a country’s fiscal strategy in a post-coronavirus (COVID-19) world, as citizen buy-in will be key for governments, Network Director of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency Juan Pablo Guerrero said yesterday.
Guerrero, who was part of an Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) panel discussion, said governments have been engaged in spending more of their citizens’ money while confining them to the outskirts of the process of how and why that money is being spent.
He said in the aftermath of COVID-19, citizen inclusion in fiscal matters will be the key to provide clarity on the inherent risks of governments’ strategies and to bolster market confidence.
“Transparency and accountability are essential for the ultimate success of COVID-19 policy responses,” said Guerrero.
“Transparency enables citizens to understand how the package will help them.
“Governments cannot solve the problems on their own. They need the coordination and collaboration off citizens.”
Fiscal Responsibility Council member Gowon Bowe, who was also on the ORG panel, said the government has the responsibility to explain its upcoming budget presentation in detail, given that it will need a fiscal policy response to the economic fallout caused by both COVID-19 and Hurricane Dorian last September.
He said that policy should be designed so that citizens understand where the shortfalls lay with regard to each crisis separately, for greater transparency.
“Lay out the exceptional reduction in revenue attributable to Dorian and attributable to COVID-19.,” Bowe said.
“Be able to assess each one for their own merit. We don’t want a commingling of issues that simply says I’m able to cast the blame on COVID-19 or Dorian, or other natural disasters. We want to able to say there is an acceptance that exceptional decisions will have to be made, but it certainly should be in the context of not allowing inefficiency or other areas of deficiency to be masked over by exceptional circumstances.”
ORG’s Executive Director Matt Aubry said in many cases there is a lack of compliance in tax contributions because citizens don’t understand, buy into, or support the process.
Aubry added that the government will have to scale up citizen participation in the upcoming processes and moving forward.
“Citizens need to understand and see tangible benefits from taxes,” he said.