Zagreb - Strengthening the trust of citizens in state institutions, fighting lethargy and attracting investments are just some of the benefits of involving citizens when preparing the budget, heard a round table discussion organised on Tuesday in parliament by the parliamentary finance and local government committee and the GONG civil society organisation.
When citizens are informed and included in decision-making, they aren't as critical and their trust in institutions and politics is enhanced, mistrust is reduced and transparency attracts investors, said Pazin Mayor Renato Krulčić whose city implemented a pilot-project for citizens to participate in budget planning. Pazin has around 8,600 residents, 13 local community committees, six budget beneficiaries and a revenue of around HRK 75 million.
Krulčić explained that the pilot project was conducted in 2014 and citizens were included in decisions concerning small municipal investments valued at around HRK 300,000. Public debates were held, with around 500 citizens voting on whether they supported a project or not. He added that citizens should be informed that budget funds were specifically earmarked, and that in Pazin's case this referred to 74% of the funds available.
Even though transparency of city and municipal budgets improved in 2014, it is still far from satisfactory, the chairman of the parliamentary finance and state budget committee, Srdjan Gjurković, said. He added that it was particularly worrying that cities and municipalities rarely published their budget proposals allowing citizens to be involved in the process of budget planning and to influence decisions about the future of their municipalities or cities. Involving citizens in budget planning could be a tool to strengthen civil society and suppress corruption, Gjurković concluded.
Duje Prkut of the GONG civil society organisation that monitors election processes in the country said that results of a survey on citizens' participation in budget planning and budget transparency in 2014 were poorer than before and indicated stagnation. (Hina/Press Office)