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5.2. Parliament’s role in budgeting

The legislature plays a crucial role in the budgetary process and is ultimately responsible for approving the executive’s budget. In turn, the presentation of the budget and related documentation in the parliament is normally the first opportunity for public scrutiny of a government’s priorities, thus it becomes an essential component for transparency and public financial accountability. While amendments by the parliament to the budget can contribute in balancing priorities and incorporating people’s views in spending choices, they could also have negative consequences on fiscal policy outcomes. Members of the legislature could have a short-term horizon (influenced by electoral cycles) when deciding on resource allocation and may be focused on maximising budget spending for constituencies. Misalignment of incentives between the executive and the legislature is often the biggest concern at the budget parliamentary approval stage.

Budget system laws establish the formal powers of the legislature and the mechanisms for decision making throughout the budgetary process. Legal constraints and budgetary practices vary across Western Balkan governments. In Albania, Montenegro and the State level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the legislature has unrestricted powers to amend the budget proposed by the executive. In Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia, the legislature can amend the budget without deviating from the fiscal balance targets. For OECD countries, the most common arrangement, in place in 53% of countries, is for the legislature to have unrestricted powers for amending the budget.

To meaningfully engage in the budget process, rather than simply serving as a rubber stamp, legislatures require reliable unbiased information that could inform budget discussions. In addition to the budget proposal, all Western Balkans have to submit to parliaments for approval any supplementary budgets containing proposed amendments to the main annual budgets. This is the mechanism with which the government seeks legislative approval for spending that differs from the original budget and appropriations. However, it is important to bear in mind that the frequent approval of supplementary budgets may reflect poor budget preparation procedures, inappropriate costing of programmes, macroeconomic shocks, wrong forecast or governmental failure to adhere to announced budgetary policies.

The submission of other types of reports to parliament, beyond the executive’s budget proposal, is uneven among the Western Balkans. Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia share the largest amount of information as they submit to parliament for information purposes the pre-budget fiscal policy statement, the mid-year implementation report, the year-end budget execution report and reports on fiscal risks. In turn, according to the information available, no countries in the region prepares and submits to parliament, even for information, the long-term fiscal sustainability report. This is in stark contrast to OECD countries where over two thirds of countries submit such long-term reports to parliament and in the majority of cases; the submission is for either parliamentary discussion or approval by the legislature.

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Methodology and definitions

Data were collected through the 2019 Survey for the Western Balkans on Budget Practices and Procedures. The survey was completed in 2019 in the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The data for Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflect the consolidated response (unless shown individually), submitted by the State level, based on individual responses received from different levels of administration – the State level, the Entities and Brcko District. Data for OECD countries are derived from the 2018 OECD Budget Practices and Procedures Survey. Respondents were predominantly senior budget officials. Unless specified otherwise responses refer to central/federal government

The executive’s budget proposal is developed by the CBA following negotiations and initial estimations provided by line ministries/agencies. The nature of the executive’s budget proposal can vary from country to country. The budget proposal encompasses the main executive’s budget proposal, as well as any supporting documents that are linked to it.

A long-term fiscal sustainability report can help identify the probable future expenses in light of forecasted demographic and economic developments, and can contribute to the political discussion of a broader reform agenda. This is important as policies and specific programmes have implications that transcend the budget year. When these aspects are not taken into account, public finances and the success of policies can be negatively affected (programmes are started but their long-term financing needs may not be secured).

Further reading

OECD (2019), Budgeting and Public Expenditures in OECD Countries 2019, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264307957-en.

Kim, C. (2019), “Who has power over the budget-The Legislature or the Executive?: A comparative analysis of budgetary power in 70 Countries», OECD Journal on Budgeting, vol. 18/3, https://doi.org/10.1787/efc0708a-en.

Figure notes

Data for the United States is not available. On data for Israel, see http://doi.org/10.1787/888932315602.

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5.4. Formal powers of the legislature to amend the budget proposed by the executive, 2019
5.4. Formal powers of the legislature to amend the budget proposed by the executive, 2019

Source: OECD (2019), 2019 Survey for the Western Balkans on Budget Practices and Procedures; For the OECD data, OECD (2018), OECD Budget Practices and Procedures Survey.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934129030

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5.5. Budget reports submitted to the legislature, 2019

 

Pre-budget fiscal policy statement

Executive’s budget proposal

Supplementary budget

Mid-year implementation report

Year-end budget execution reports

Year-end financial statements

Long-term fiscal sustainability report

Report on fiscal risks

Albania

picture

picture

picture

picture

N/A

Bosnia and Herzegovina

picture

picture

picture

picture

picture

N/A

N/A

Kosovo

picture

picture

N/A

Montenegro

N/A

picture

picture

N/A

N/A

picture

N/A

N/A

North Macedonia

picture

picture

N/A

picture

N/A

Serbia

picture

picture

N/A

Western Balkans Total

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

❍ Submitted for information

4

0

0

3

2

3

0

4

◼ Submitted for discussion

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

picture Submitted for approval

0

6

6

1

3

3

0

0

△ Other

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Not applicable

1

0

0

2

1

0

5

2

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Source: OECD (2019), 2019 Survey for the Western Balkans on Budget Practices and Procedures; For the OECD data, OECD (2018), OECD Budget Practices and Procedures Survey.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934129049

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