What we want and expect from the state budget

The budget is thus an integral part of the five-year development plan and therefore it is linked to the state strategy and the government sustainable development plans as well as Vision 2020.

Lo’ai BatainEh –
Lbb_65@yahoo.com –

State budgets at any given country provide an idea about the government policies aimed at effecting social and economic conditions. They are also important tools in achieving the maximum level of social and economic stability at any given country.
Moreover, they play a key role in the redistribution of national income among various sectors of society taking into consideration achieving social justice, the ultimate goal for many governments, they may be done by involving everyone in shouldering the financial and social responsibilities.
This responsibility may take several forms such as paying taxes, fees and venturing in projects that create fresh job opportunities for locals. They may also take the form of paying income tax which later will be used in financing various projects that targeted limited income and provide them with education, social, health and other basic services.
It is important for us to point out that the state budget is a financial declaration that gives an idea about the government plans, programmes and expenditures to achieve the socioeconomic development.
The state budget thus is not an accounting record independent from the annual plans of the Ministry of Finance and other ministries as well.
The budget is thus an integral part of the five-year development plan and therefore it is linked to the state strategy and the government sustainable development plans as well as Vision 2020.
It is important for the state budget figures to reflect high degree of integration and consistency among the financial plan approved by the Minister of Finance and the executive plan that will be implemented by the Ministry of Planning or the agency (Authority) in charge of following up implementation. There should be another agency in charge of holding all stakeholders accountable for implementing such plans.
Everyone seeks to achieve and ensure the highest level of transparency and accountability. The accountability may not be only through financial accounts at which the state shows what she has already spent. Rather, there should be integration between the state budget and other accounts to ensure integrity of the budget, eliminate financial waste, and control unjustified expenditure. If a challenge emerged in implementation, it may be adjusted through proper legal arrangements and not through instructions which may not find those who can read and interpret properly.
The state budget figures should:
• Be transparent and clear by providing more details on revenues and expenditure and highlighting the new sources for the same.
• I believe that the government should continue building expansionary financial policies as it is the case with other budgets where it followed the same approach despite the price drop to below $40 per barrel in 2009. This will help the government in maintaining growth of the economy and avoiding recession because recession will lead to higher unemployment rates, low income and wages, poor sentiment and pessimistic outlook. The Omani government is making endeavours to overcome such challenges during the coming year.
• How the government will finance the deficit? Will there be any new taxes or fees and what are these taxes or fees?
• What is the status of state public debt? How is the debt service? Are we in a comfortable position? How the financial deficit will be financed? What is cost of public debt service?
• Was the privatisation and transfer of assets to sovereign fund against real financial transactions or just transfer of funds?
• While the financial reforms should not affect the quality of living of citizens, we are in need for more economic reforms that include amending and developing a number of economic laws and legislations that make the business environment investment-friendly.
• What are the plans of the government if the oil prices dropped to level below what is forecasted by the government as it has been the case with 2016 budget?
• How the projects approved by the government for the coming year will be financed and implemented? Are there projects that have not been implemented in 2016? What are these projects if they are mega ones?
• What are the allocations for education expenditure? Are there any plans to partially privatise education?
• What are the allocation for health especially in light of the growing finance costs and the excess expenditure on covering the health expenditure per capita?
• What is the expenditure allocated for infrastructure projects such as roads, sanitary drainage, ports and airports? Are the maintenance costs taken into account especially the operational costs are becoming higher and higher.
• What are the administrative decisions associated with restructuring of some ministries and public organisations? Are there any plans to reduce and merge these organisations?
We are aware that the circumstances may be tougher and harder than we expect but transparency is very crucial in presenting the financial and economic status.
Any plans or programmes or financial or economic reforms should be presented to the public before implementation. Every one of us should be involved in the decision making and in carrying out obligations to achieve the prospective aims.
Transparency will help citizens, expatriates, officials, businessmen and local and foreign investors to take well-informed decisions that take into consideration the effect of macroeconomic and financial conditions on their plans.