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“Floating Budget Analysis” to boost Parliaments’ capacity

“Floating Budget Analysis” to boost Parliaments’ capacity to review budget in the Pacific

Honiara, Solomon Islands – Lessons from the budget analysis model applied by the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji has been replicated in the National Parliament of the Solomon Islands.

The support during the 2018 budget process was facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), well resourced parliamentary research services offer incalculable value as a source of independent, neutral and non-partisan analysis for the Members of Parliaments (MPs). This is particularly true when Parliament discusses the budget drafted by the executive: budgets are often complex and require in-depth technical expertise and knowledge in public finance.

But Parliaments often lack resources to develop in-house research capacities. In the Pacific island countries, as in other countries with small legislatures, this challenge is even greater. Over the past years, UNDP has therefore been reflecting on ways to promote a flexible model through which Parliaments in the Pacific would share expertise and be able to support each other during their respective budget processes.

In early March, a “Floating Budget Analysis Unit” that includes seven researchers from the Parliaments of Fiji, Tonga, Australia, New Zealand and New South Wales travelled to the Solomon Islands to increase the capacity of the National Parliament’s secretariat during the parliamentary review of the 2018 budget.

The international researchers have been paired with local parliament researchers and assigned ministries’ draft budgets to work on. Each team produced a short “briefing note” presenting the 2018 budget to MPs, and contributed to an overview briefing note, the “2018 Budget at a glance”. The briefing notes will be distributed to Members of Parliament, especially members of the Public Account Committee (PAC), preparing them for the budget debate.

“The budget briefings are very useful for Members of Parliament who do not always understand the technical aspects of the national budget,” said PAC Member and North-East Guadalcanal constituency Member, Honourable Derek Sikua.

“It is simple and quite easy to follow and I acknowledge the effort to put this together.”

He added, “I would like to thank UNDP and the researchers for supporting the National Parliament of the Solomon Islands both in understanding the national budget, but also working closely with the local staff and building their capacity in budget research and analysis,” said Hon. Sikua.

In Fiji, a wide range of sector briefs were prepared for Members of Parliament in 2016 and 2017, which has helped to inform budget debates.

“These sector briefings make information more easily accessible and ‘digestible’ so that MPs have an enhanced understanding of the content of the national budget; and it can help them ask informed questions when the budget debate takes place,” said the Manager Research and Library Services of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji, Josua Namoce.

“This work around budget analysis was done in Fiji the past two years and proved successful, now we are replicating the budget research analysis through UNDP’s support as a model to use in other countries, starting with the Solomon Islands.”

The Director Committees at the National Parliament of the Solomon Islands, Marson Lilopeza added, “from a Pacific perspective, this is an excellent opportunity for “South-South” learning and exchange of ideas and information. Fiji was the first country where the “floating” budget analysis model has been applied; and we are delighted that our Fijian colleagues accepted to share their experience with us.”

“We are also grateful to the Federal Parliament of Australia, and the parliaments of New South Wales and New Zealand for lending their staff to be part of the research pool assisting the Solomon Islands,” said Lilopeza.

According to the Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Programme and Policy for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Bakhodir Burkhanov, “This approach aims to progressively develop a core of researchers in every Parliament of the Pacific, who can also support budget analysis across the region when it is needed.”

He added, “the more information that is made available to Members of Parliaments and to citizens on the budget process, the more open and transparent governance systems will become, which is a key objective of this project.”

The activity is part of a programme of support by the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI) implemented by the UNDP Pacific Office with funding support from the Government of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

The UNDP PPEI is a three-year programme implemented in support to the Parliaments of Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, focusing on a number of areas including improving procedures and processes in Parliament and building the capacity of Members of Parliaments and Secretariat staff.

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