Bakhodir Burkhanov: Opening of the Parliament CSO Budget Workshop

Jul 10, 2017

Amanda Vercoe, Deputy High Commissioner of New Zealand

Peter Raab of the Australia High Commission

Representatives from Civil Society

Colleagues and friends:

I am very pleased to be here this morning to say a few words at the opening of this workshop.

In any country, the national budget is a key policy document that provides a statement of country’s development priorities and that requires appropriate scrutiny and approval.

UNDP, through the Fiji Parliament Support Project, has been working with the Fiji Parliament since it re-started in 2014.  This support has focused on several key areas including professional development of MPs and staff, and improvement of Committees’ legislative and oversight work. We have also been assisting the Parliament in its outreach and citizen engagement functions.

The Fiji Parliament has come a long way in recent years in terms of raising public’s awareness and access to information. It now uses a modern website interface and has new mobile apps that can be downloaded on mobile phones and tablets so citizens can access information about the Parliament’s work.

However, while putting Parliamentary information out there is essential, making that information more easily accessible and ‘digestible’ is just as important. This is where today’s workshop comes in.

A week and half ago, the Honorable Minister of Economy gave his budget address in Parliament and the budget documents were made available on the Government website.

Since the evening of the budget address, staff from the Parliament Research and Library Services have been busy working through public holidays and weekends to read all the documents and analyze the information. I’m delighted that UNDP has been able to provide assistance to the Parliament team in their endeavors. The UNDP Fiji Parliament Support Project brought in six expert researchers from the Parliaments of New Zealand, Australia, Victoria, Tonga, Wales and Scotalnd to work with the Research team here in Fiji. Last week the Parliament held two workshops for MPs on the budget and the research undertaken.

However, this information and research are not only important to MPs. The budget is for the whole of the country, all sectors and institutions, and communities across the country. The more information that is made available to citizens and civil society organizations, the more open and transparent our governance systems become. The global Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, talk about this very issue. SDG 16 makes explicit reference to the aim of making national institutions, such as Parliaments, transparent and accountable.

I am happy that the Parliament, with UNDP support, has organized this workshop today to share with you as representatives of civil society, both the way in which the budget will be debated in Parliament, and also information on the content of the budget itself.

I would like to extend our thanks and congrats to the Fiji Parliament for organizing this discussion, which I believe is the first of its kind to be held in Fiji.  UNDP is proud to be involved in supporting this activity that enables engagement with civil society as a key stakeholder of the budget process.

This workshop and our Parliament Support Project would not have been possible without robust partnerships and cooperation of our project donors, the Governments of New Zealand and Australia, who have been with us every step of the way on this important initiative. I’m glad they could join us in today’s event.

I hope you enjoy the workshop discussions that are structured to provide briefing on the budget process and sector-specific briefs. By the end of the day, I’m sure you will all be experts on the budget allocations for the sectors ranging from transport to education and from health to infrastructure!

Thank you all very much!

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