Public Finance Management reforms for what?

Last week the PFM Blog posted on Transparency Versus Effectiveness in Public Financial Management.

They make a series of interesting points about:

  •  Links between the two: “Providing the public with comprehensive and timely information on the government’s budget and financial activities and opportunities to participate in decision-making can strengthen oversight, improve policy choices, and enhance the efficiency and sustainability of policy implementation.”
  • Sequencing of reforms:  “due to their complementary nature, a country cannot go far with one of these two goals unless it addresses the other.”
  • Preconditions for such reforms:  “a key prerequisite is political ownership of reforms in the absence of which a lot of resources may be wasted (e.g., in designing strategies and action plans and setting up organizational structures to manage reforms for strengthening transparency and/or effectiveness of the PFM system) without much result”

The post does make one wonder about whether these reforms have inherent value:

  • Are they not best applied in service of broader democratic reforms?
  • Does effectiveness in public financial management matter if government is not spending on the right things or raising revenue from the right places?
  • Does budget  transparency matter if it is not in service of public participation in the budget process? How much of budget transparency does not help the public or democratic institutions oversee the budget (information that is too aggregated for example)?
  • Should our thinking about public finance management not always be located in a democratic framework that already works towards building budget accountability?
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