Speech at International Workshop on Orientation to the State Budget Law Amendment – International Experience

23 Sep 2013

Speaker: UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta    
Date:       23 - 24 September 2013
Event:     International Workshop on Orientation to the State Budget Law Amendment – International Experience
Venue:    Emeralda Resort, Ninh Binh Province

Your Excellencies,
Dr. Phung Quoc Hien, Chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Finance and Budget,
Vice Chairmen of Committees of the National Assembly
Honorable National Assembly Deputies and guest Members of Parliament,
Standing Vice Minister Nguyen Cong Nghiep
Distinguished representatives of development partners in Vietnam and international experts,
UN colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you to this “International Conference on the Amendment of the State Budget Law” in Ninh Binh province. Exactly two years ago, under the auspices of the Finance and Budget Committee of the National Assembly, many of you came together in Hoi An to discuss “fiscal reform in transition countries”.
Since then UNDP has been supporting the Finance and Budget Committee to convene such dialogue forums that bring together relevant Vietnamese policy institutions; UN system, development partners and national and international experts  to discuss fiscal reform matters.

The subject of this year’s conference is budget reform and over the next two days issues related to the amendment of the present State Budget Law, which was adopted in 2002, will be discussed. As the amendment process is imminent, I trust that this workshop would offer an excellent and timely opportunity to learn from international experiences in reforming public financial management systems and to discuss the role of elected bodies in overseeing reforms so that they respond to the national priorities and needs of the people, as while the government is accountable to the legislators, the elected bodies are accountable to the citizens.

Over the years the United Nations system in Viet Nam has been supporting capacity building of the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Councils to strengthen their oversight functions as well support the National Assembly on how best to represent the needs of the citizens, especially the most vulnerable people and ensure equity.

For example, UNDP has been providing support to the Finance and Budget Committee of the National Assembly to fulfill its mandate to review and approve legislations and oversee government’s management of  public finances.
 
Other UN agencies such as UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF and ILO are working with other National Assembly committees and bodies to provide expertise on gender, child rights, labour and population and reproductive health issues.

Ladies and gentlemen,
State budget is the most important tool to achieve national socio-economic objectives while ensuring equity and inclusiveness.  Legislatures have the “power of the purse”, they have the last word in deciding how a country’s resources are allocated and ensure accountable utilization of public resources.

In Viet Nam national and provincial elected bodies are keen to enhance their oversight on state budget matters.  In recent years they have expanded their outreach to learn from international experiences and reaching out to the citizens through public consultations.

 Consultative practice should also apply to the budget process by both the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Councils. The voice of women, youth, disabled, people living with HIV, ethnic minorities, poor should be heard by decision-makers when important decisions on how to spend the country’s financial resources are made. Several countries such as Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, etc. have instituted participatory and gender sensitive budgeting practice to allow greater say of their people in budget allocations.

Further decentralization, as part of the ongoing revision of the State Budget Law in Vietnam, in particular by increasing the autonomy of provinces, provides an opportunity to enhance inclusiveness of the budget process and ensure equity.
Several countries now prepare result-based budgeting methods such as medium term financial fiscal framework (MTFF) and medium term expenditure framework  (MTEF) which form basis to formulate annual budget as well as helps the parliament in reviewing value for money. The National Assembly and Provincial councils can enhance their oversight on public expenditures also through the Supreme Audit Institution. The State Auditor’s report, which provides detailed breakdown of public expenditure at all levels, can be an important tool for the National Assembly when it does budget expenditure review and public hearing process.

During the two days of this conference you will have the opportunity to discuss advantages and challenges of various ways that other countries have been practicing to  make their budgetary process inclusive and transparent through the use of mechanisms such as: participatory budgeting, targeted  budgetary interventions, particularly to ensure equitable access to education and health care; specific taxation instruments that can help reduce disparities; ways to improve  transparency and public information sharing as well as budget monitoring.

In closing, I would like to thank the Committee for Financial and Budgetary Affairs for co-hosting this conference with UNDP and once again extend my warm welcome to all the distinguished guest speakers and participants.

I wish you all fruitful discussions over the next two days.
Thank you.