Politics and the national budget (Part IV)

This might be far from the original fourth (and the last) installment on my discussion of politics and the national budget. I originally intended to post five blog entries. For almost three years, here I am posting the next in the series.

Why is the budget designed for maximum spread? Maximum spread in this case would mean that the budget covers almost all areas. Spread is geographic. Partly related to the previous point on dependency, the idea of budget as maximum spread is part of the political trade-off. The national government and its officials must appeal to the local politicians. Let me elaborate on this matter.

As much as possible, the national government must be able to provide at least one project to various local government units. In my opinion, there are two reasons for this one: First, on the part of the local government, there is a sense of recognition from the top of the existence of the local government unit that it gained the attention of the national chief executive. Whatever that may be, it is a prestige.

Second, the national government must distribute projects all over the country to assure a strong hold over local government units so that at the time of reckoning, i.e. elections, the candidates of the administration will gain the same or more seats.

This causes the maximum spread nature of our budget. Bits and pieces are distributed. No wonder that road construction will not cover the whole stretch of the road, but only some two or three kilometers. While some might argue that finishing the entire stretch of the road would be more beneficial to the people, and I agree with this argument, it is the political consequences, should the national government fail to give proper attention to these dependents, that matter. Ergo, the maximum spread budget persists.

Concluding remarks. The national budget in 2009 may be very much different today, 2012, or next year 2013. The changes in the political landscape of the country might probably affected these changes. The current president runs a continuing campaign against corruption and for good governance, transparency and accountability. However the fact remains that political interests never die. They transcend political alliances, parties, if any, and principles.

Alongside our battle for good government, we have, as a people, a powerful tool. We pay our taxes, either through income taxes, withholding taxes, or even value added taxes. We have all the right to demand from the government to spend our money wisely based on what our needs as a people are.

To end, and to remind us, let me repeat this point I made three years ago: “Budget is no longer an accounting problem. It is not entirely about the deficit and the surplus, the inflow and outflow. Rather, the budget is a political problem.” It requires a political solution from the people who has the power to once again change the political landscape of this country.

Politics and the national budget (Part IV)

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