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On Thursday, December 3, 2020, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) launched its latest report “Following the Money: Transparency and Oversight in the Government Budget Process in Jamaica”, completed with the support of the International Budget Partnership (IBP). The launch took place via a web forum, livestreamed to the public via YouTube and CAPRI’s website.

The report assessed for the first time in Jamaica’s history, the Government of Jamaica facilitation of public access to budget information, and how many formal opportunities it provides for the public to participate in the national budget process. The Open Budget Survey (OBS,) the world’s only independent, comparative, and objective research instrument for this purpose, was used to do the assessment.

CAPRI’s Executive Director, Dr Damien King, delivered a presentation on the findings of the Open Budget Survey. The overall assessment of Jamaica’s performance is that the country has done moderately well by achieving an outcome for fiscal openness that puts it near the world average. Dr King noted, this is “fairly impressive for a small country,” as “small countries necessarily have less public administrative capacity.”

The report made eight recommendations:
1. Publish the Budget Circular, which is presently only an internally circulated document.
2. Provide in The Citizen’s Guide to the Budget information on channels of communication for the citizenry to provide commentary.
3. Provide more detail and disaggregation in the budget proposal.
4. Provide more information in the Fiscal Policy Paper Interim Report.
5. Establish channels for public participation in the debate.
6. Increase the frequency with which Parliament examines the execution of the budget.
7. Establish parliamentary review of Auditor General’s budget audit.
8. Establish an independent fiscal council.

Following the presentation, a panel discussion on the implications of the OBS findings for Jamaica was held. Panelists included Darlene Morrison, Financial Secretary, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service; Jeanette Calder, Executive Director of the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP); Claire Schouten, Senior Program Officer, International Advocacy at the International Budget Partnership (IBP); and CAPRI Researcher Monique Graham.

Jeanette Calder, Executive Director at Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP) indicated that Jamaica is making progress in the overall budget process and the publishing of The Citizens’ Budget is one such example. Calder also expressed that Jamaicans need to become more budget literate, “learning to read the budget is empowering and affirms one's citizenship and belonging in one's country. We need to encourage Jamaicans to understand their role as citizens, and its importance”.

Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Darlene Morrison, expressed that more should be done for the Open Budget Survey to take into account things that are particular to countries, so that more information can be captured in the survey.
CAPRI with cooperation from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service will be conducting this openness exercise again next year.

The report, Following the Money: Transparency and Oversight in the Government Budget Process in Jamaica, is available for download on CAPRI’s website.