The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity-AMAN, in its role as the secretariat of the Civil Society Team for Enhanced Transparency of the Public Budget comprisingover 45 members of civil society organizations, academics and economists from the West Bank and Gaza, addressed an official letter toPresident Mahmoud Abbas on 31/3/2015 requesting community discussionon the general budget for 2015. The Civil Team highlighted that ithas been monitoring carefully the efforts by the Palestinian presidency to deal with the financial crisis caused by Israeli piracy in withholding Palestinian tax revenuesand the challenges related to Gaza reconstruction.
The letter highlights that the government, civil society and private sector should devote all their efforts to mitigating our people’s sufferingduring this difficult period. Theyshould contribute to effective participation in formulating the financial policy and budget of the Palestinian National Authority to overcome this financial crisis.
The Civil Society Team for Enhanced Transparency of the Public Budget understands the motivation of thegovernment inreleasingan “emergency budget” due to the current economic situation. The government has also prepared an alternative basic budget in the event that Israel releases the tax revenues. Nevertheless, the Civil Team is concerned about the use of the expression “emergency budget”. The Civil Team recommends that,once the tax revenues are released, the basic budget should be developed into a “draft general budget for 2015”, which should be discussed publicly as a budget appendix prior to approval.
The Civil Society Team for Enhanced Transparency of the Public Budget attached a position paper on the budget draft for 2015,which was presented before the Palestinian Legislative Council, and recommends the following:
The provisions of the binding Basic Law should be adhered to during the general budget preparation.
The budget should be based on the publicly declared policy of the Palestinian Authority.
A comparison should be made between the revenue, expenditure and other items of the budget audit for 2014 and the planned, approved and actualexpenditure based on assets.
These recommendations were all ignored in the current proposed budget for unacceptable reasons. The Civil Team has requested participation in the review of the budget draft as an embodiment of the participatory method adopted by the government, which welcomesthe participation of economic experts, academics and relevant civil society organizations to benefit from their accumulated expertise.
The Civil Team’s position paper put forward the following significant recommendations:
a. A special account should be opened for Gaza reconstruction and should be listed under the item of development allocations. The Prime Minister, Minister of Economic Affairs and the Minister of Finance would monitorthis account.
b. Statements related to public debt, including debt holders, installments and interest, should be published.
c. A robust policy for reducing the net lendingitem should be adopted by the Palestinian Authority to avoid depletion.
d. Measurable stepsshould be defined for the execution of the austerity plan and rationing.
e. A budget appendix including all legally approved financial statements should be provided by the government.