Budgets still a little hazy
2010-Apr-2 06:34:32

Editor's note: To make government budget transparent does not only means guaranteeing the public's right to know, but also the accountability of government expenditures.

The government pledged to make budgets transparent and they kept that promise with the publication of ministry-level department budgets this week. But the budgets, detailing how public funds are spent, were just the beginning.

A few days after the Ministry of Finance published 12 central government budgetary reports, four ministry-level departments released their own budgets.

These departmental budgets provide the public with general information about how ministries generate revenue and how public funds are and will be spent. This budgetary information is needed for taxpayers to understand where their money will go.

But the current efforts to enhance transparency means more than just guaranteeing the public's right to know. The goal is to increase public oversight and hence help raise efficiency in government expenditures.

In view of this goal, every budgetary report thus far is unfortunately not informative enough for the public to get a clear picture of how government revenues are spent. Budgetary clarity is crucial to make sure officials and their departments are accountable. A case in point is Shanghai. The city recently bought a number of BMW cars for city employees to use during work. Locals certainly deserve a clear-cut budgetary explanation about how much the cars cost and what are the justifications for the purchases.

Though governments at all levels have gradually realized the need to reveal the budgets, the more important task is to ensure that budgetary transparency will lead to budget accountability.

(China Daily 04/02/2010 page8)

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