Budget Trailblazer

Budget Trailblazer: Blendi Hasaj

Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we’re highlighting Blendi Hasaj, Executive Director of the GAP Institute of Advanced Studies in Kosovo. This is the first year that Kosovo is participating in a pilot Open Budget Survey thanks to support from the European Union. 

How did you first get involved in budget work? 

I finished my master’s degree in economics and because of my academic background, topics related to macroeconomics attracted me the most. The budget is the most important instrument through which you can implement fiscal policies and make changes in the economy, especially for countries like Kosovo, which have unilaterally adopted the euro as their currency. GAP Institute for Advanced Studies is the first civil society organization (in Kosovo) to work more deeply and engage in budget transparency. What we did is build a budget platform which allows the citizens to easily access budget information and distribution of the budget by ministries and local governments so they can know how they will be affected.  

 

For the first time ever, Kosovo is participating in a pilot Open Budget Survey this year, with GAP as research partner. What excites you about this project? 

GAP Institute has shown interest since 2017 in conducting the evaluation for the OBS survey for Kosovo. It is important for Kosovo to be one of the countries IBP evaluates regarding budget transparency, oversight and public participation. We think that it will improve the mechanisms in place and will enhance the level of transparency and involvement of the citizens in these important processes. 

 

You recently attended a training on the OBS survey process. What did you take away from those three days of training? 

Besides being introduced to many technical aspects of the methodology, we learned how to properly implement the methodology IBP uses to evaluate the countries in all parts of the survey. This enables us to provide a concise evaluation.  

I also learned some important policies that different countries undertake to enhance budget transparency and improve inclusiveness. And how countries can improve their score in OBS by undertaking several steps. For example, we have noticed in Kosovo’s case, that the Ministry of Finance publishes a citizen’s budget. But recently it did this shortly after Parliament enacted the budget. Which is not useful.  Why not publish it earlier so citizens can engage and provide input before it’s enacted? 

 

What are your overall hopes for Kosovo as it pertains to the OBS and budget transparency? 

My hopes are that Kosovo can go from the pilot stage to the official evaluation from the OBS. 

I hope that governmental institutions will start to publish more budget information in Excel or files that can be easily accessed and used. (Currently), the budget documents are 700 pages long and as a researcher (that makes it) hard to analyze.  

Also, in Kosovo, women are underrepresented in decision making. If we can influence the government to conduct more inclusive consultations with citizens, this will be a huge benefit for our society. The OBS methodology looks carefully at how much the government is including underrepresented groups of society in the budgeting process. 

For me, if women get to participate in public budget hearings, this would be very beneficial. Their needs would be better addressed in the budget documents. If this is the only benefit of the survey, it would be sufficient

 

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union.

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