South Africa: Fiscal Transparency and Strong Public Institutions - Connecting the Dots

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in September 2019.

Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni will tomorrow table South Africa's national Budget for 2020 and estimates for the medium term. The fact that the tabling of the Budget is of growing interest to civil society, and is no longer seen as just a matter for the state and the business chamber, bodes well for our democracy.

Researchers Sanjeev Khagram et al suggest that public interest in transparency, participation and accountability in fiscal decision-making has seen sharp increases globally. They cite various reasons for this increase. One is a shift from, "closed, authoritarian political regimes to ... ones characterised by policy contestation, separation of powers, political party competition, an organised civil society, an engaged citizenry, and an active media". Nothing to dispute there. The evidence abounds even in the face of a closing civic space.

Another is the introduction of modern public finance management systems and progressive decentralisation of powers to subnational levels of government including the power to raise, allocate and spend public resources.

Notably, the lack of transparency and disclosure by governments of their financial risks is cited as a contributing factor in many countries' fiscal crises, highlighting the importance of openness.

The proliferation of norms and standards calling...

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