Public budgets translate a government’s policies, commitments and goals into decisions on how much revenue to raise, how to raise it and how to use the funds to meet the country’s needs. While budgets affect the lives of all citizens, they can have the greatest impact on the well-being of certain groups, such as the elderly, children, poor people, rural residents and ethnic minorities.
Vietnam has passed a number of laws and policies that aim to promote increased public involvement at the local level in decisions on the use of public resources. However, these policies have not yet had the intended impact. In the 2015 global Open Budget Survey, Vietnam scored just 18 out of 100 points on budget transparency. Citizens have little access to information on annual budgets and are often not able to influence how public funds should be spent. The inadequate disclosure of budget information also limits the capacity of elected bodies (the National Assembly and Peoples’ Councils) to oversee the budget and its use. As a result, budget allocation is often unresponsive to the needs of poor people and other vulnerable groups.
Increasing public budget transparency, accountability and participation
Oxfam started working to increase public budget transparency, accountability and citizen participation in Hoa Binh and Quang Tri provinces in April 2015 . Both provinces are home to a number of ethnic minorities and rural poor. Surveys by Oxfam and partners show that poor people, ethnic minorities and women in both provinces have very limited access to budget information, including on their entitlements from public poverty reduction programmes.
Oxfam’s budget transparency project aims to empower local governments, civil society organisations and women and men in Hoa Binh and Quang Tri to effectively influence the public budget process, focusing in particular on poverty reduction programmes.
Our work is based on the understanding that if local people are able to participate in a transparent public budget process, there will be a positive impact on the resource allocation and management of these poverty reduction programmes and they will therefore better match local needs.
Building capacities and strengthening networks
First of all, Oxfam strengthens the individual and organisational skills of community-based organisations in Hoa Binh and Quang Tri to participate in local consultations on budget allocation, among other activities. This offers poor people, ethnic minorities and women increased understanding of the budget process and an ability to exert influence on this process.
Secondly, Oxfam urges the People’s Councils in Hoa Binh and Quang Tri to become more effective in overseeing the budget process and ensure that they represent all voices in society in this process.
Third, we work with local governments (People’s Committees) to provide more space for civil society to engage in formulating public budgets and monitoring the budget for poverty reduction programmes, such as through public consultations.
Finally, Oxfam is helping to strengthen a multi-stakeholder coalition of NGOs and government agencies to advocate for budget transparency, accountability and citizen participation at both the local and national level.
A more efficient use of resources
Women, poor people and ethnic minorities in Hoa Binh and Quang Tri are set to benefit from increased opportunities to participate in the budget process for poverty reduction programmes. This, in turn, will result in a more adequate allocation of funds for these programmes and a more efficient use of resources, meeting local people’s needs and concerns. Finally, by investing poverty reduction resources more effectively, the development impact of these programmes will be higher and the lives of marginalised women and men in the two provinces will improve.
In the budget transparency project, Oxfam is working with three Vietnamese NGOs – CDI, ACDC, and CECEM – as well as with the Farmers’ Union in Hoa Binh, the Women’s Union in Quang Tri, and local People’s Councils and Committees.
Project: Non-state actors promoting budget transparency
Location: Hoa Binh and Quang Tri provinces, national-level advocacy
Time frame: 2015-2018