Following the launch of Integrity Watch analytical report on the national budget 1397 (2018), on January 3, 2018, the High Council on Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption presided by President Ghani asked Integrity Watch to present the report to the Council.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, thanked the President for having started meaningfully engaging with the civil society organizations in the governance process. He said, “This is unprecedented in the recent history to invite civil society organizations to present their views and research report to the highest level of the government.”
Mr. Afzali stated that there are several positive changes in the 1397 national budget including reliability of budget figures, removal of bogus projects, and allocation of funds for provincial budgeting. In regard to the operating budget, Mr. Afzali said that the upcoming burden of the pension is alarming. He said that in 15 years, the total pension would reach to around USD 1.5 billion which would be more than half of domestic revenue of the government.
As far as the development budget is concerned, he stated that in spite of positive changes, the fundamental issues in the budget has not been addressed. He mentioned that lack of consultation with people in the selection of development projects has prevented public participation in the budget process. Mr. Afzali stated that the role of the national assembly has been distortive and does not reflect the interest of the Afghan people. He added that “The Lower House has misused its oversight authority in the budget process and the MPs have continuously rejected the national budget proposal as a means to negotiate their personal benefits.”
H.E. Eklil Hakimi, Minister of Finance thanked Integrity Watch Afghanistan and concurred with a majority of the findings of the report. He said that due to the Lower House pressure, an annex (worth of USD 2 billion) was added to the approved national budget that included projects without specific funding sources. “This made the national budget unreliable and bogus,” he confessed. “We have started to engage people through provincial budget process and we are trying to increase public participation in the provinces in the future,” he added.
H.E. President Ghani stated that it is a great moment to see the government and civil society join hand to implement the constitution. He said that “Our development budget is three times less than our operating budget and this shows the lack of effectiveness of our civil service.” He mentioned that there has been a lot of positive changes and this year the Ministry of Finance has worked hard to prepare a reliable budget based on international standards. However, he added that “there is need to clean the bureaucracy and decrease the huge leakages in the tax collection to make Afghanistan self-reliant.”