I refer to the article “Trust the Govt to be efficient with its use of money: Shanmugam” (Straits Times, Mar 5).
The article writes:
“As the Government spends more in areas such as healthcare, it also needs more revenue, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam at a dialogue with residents on Sunday (March 5).
“Money is not going to come from the sky… We have to pay for what we use, and we just have to trust the Government to be efficient with its use of the money,” he said.
He also explained the need for the 30 per cent increase in water tariffs – the first in 17 years – which was announced last month.
He pointed out that one- and two-room HDB households will not see any nett increase at all, while for most other HDB flats, the nett increase will only be between $2 and $11 per month.”
I believe Singaporeans generally trust the Government about its use of the people’s money.
This trust may be further enhanced if there is more transparency on how our money is invested and used?
In this connection, I would like to quote one of AWARE’s past Budget recommendations –
“We ask the Ministry of Finance to publish key budget documents in accordance with international best practice, including a pre-budget statement, detailed breakdown of the budget for the financial year, in-year reports, mid-year review, and an annual report detailing the spending of individual ministries.”
Below is a video of Dr Vivienne Wee from AWARE who talks about the process of how budget are formulated in Singapore and highlights the lack of transparency and accountability in setting the national budget.
Dr Wee noted that in her speech that Singapore did not agree to be part of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Index.
The OBI ranks countries on central government budget transparency. Scores are calculated using 109 questions from the Open Budget Survey, specifically those that focus on whether governments provide comprehensive and timely budget information in accordance with international standards.
Dr Wee listed out the lackings that Singapore had when it comes to the proper budget planning process.
- No Pre-Budget Statement that lays out the macroeconomic assumptions, revenue and expenditure levels, debt and deficit limits, etc
- No Citizen’s budget, laying out the economic assumptions, Budget process, revenue collection, priorities, information about sectors & programmes.
- Full Budget Report, only 2 speeches provided by the state, which comes in a form of the Budget Speech and Round-up speech by Minister for Finance as what the UK Chancellor’s Oral Statement. There is no Singapore equivalent of UK’s full Budget Report.
- Supply Act, no details of how the amount will be spent but only total amount available for the fiscal year. Parliament will approve the proposed Budget by passing the Supply Bill, with the President giving assent. The Supply bill is then enacted as law as Supply Act.
- No in-year reports, no mid-term review of how the budget is being spent.
- No consolidated year-end report by MOF, only spending by individual ministries, only available in the Parliament Library.
So how would Singapore rank if it took part in the ranking?