Opening up the national budget to public scrutiny is one step in the long and bumpy road to making information widely available and accessible.
Why should this matter to the average person? It is about making governments more accountable, and changing the relationship with their citizens. The average person needs a way of monitoring budgets and spending, so that together citizens can both provide feedback and ensure that public funds are spent in the right way. The aim is not only to empower citizens but also to improve governance. The main question here is: How can a more transparent system promote development and increase the efficiency of the government’s delivery of services?
Over the past decades, there has been a steady call from Moroccan citizens for better governance and transparency. Opening up the state budget is one of the pillars of the current governance reform program. The new constitution adopted in 2011 enshrines basic principles of openness, transparency and accountability. For the first time in Morocco’s history, a ‘Citizen’s Budget’ was published last year that presented a simplified version of the national budget, an initiative hailed by Moroccan civil society and noted by the Open Budget Index, which classified Morocco as the second most transparent country in the Middle East and North Africa region in terms of budget transparency.
Transparency is at the heart of Moroccan civil society’s advocacy. Civil Society organizations are playing a leading role in relaying popular demands for better governance and transparency to decision-makers. The University of Mundiapolis, as part of this endeavor, organized a conference on ‘Open Spending’ in Casablanca earlier this year. The event gathered government and civil society representatives as well as development partners to take stock of recent transparency initiatives, such as the citizen’s budget and a civil society-led open budget platform. The conference also aimed at building a community of likeminded stakeholders who would promote further fiscal transparency and determine what it would take to implement all of the new constitution’s principles.