Budget resolution of 2018-2020 – the first step to the medium-term budget planning

According to the explanatory Memorandum, the main directions of budgetary policy for 2018 - 2020 (hereinafter — the budget resolution) are based on the provisions of the Program of Activities of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the Coalition Agreement, the Medium-term plan of priority actions of the Government until 2020, Strategy for Sustainable Development “Ukraine—2020”, programs of cooperation with international financial organizations. For the first time this document envisages the introduction of mid-term budgeting for three years. The main problem of the budget resolution is its weak correlation with the provisions of the state budget, which makes it a purely formal document. The main directions of the budget resolution for 2018-2020 are, according to accompanying documents, as follows: • acceleration of economic growth by creating a favorable investment climate and maintaining macroeconomic stability, in particular, continued fiscal consolidation; • public administration reform, decentralization and public finance reform; • development of human capital through the reform of the health system and education, improving the provision of state social support; • establishing the rule of law and fight against corruption; • ensuring security and defense of the state. As regards foreign policy, in 2019 it is planned to successfully complete a program of cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and to obtain a stable position on foreign markets of borrowings. The most positive aspect of this document is the introduction of medium-term budget planning with the harmonization of several policy documents.  First, the three-year budget is necessary if a country is actively pursuing reform. The reform plan should not just be embodied in the form of strategy, but to have understandable financial security. Therefore, in the case of Ukraine a medium-term budget plan may be the financial reform agenda. This is especially necessary in the context of stability of tax policy in connection with the permanent non-systemic changes in the Tax Code. Secondly, the move to three-year planning in many cases became the reason of the decrease of populist decisions concerning increase of social expenditures in pre-election periods. Legislative increasing of the interdependence of formation of the budget for the current year and a medium-term fiscal plan will help to avoid political influence in making budget decisions. Thirdly, the introduction of a medium term budget plan will also help in improving the effectiveness of the government programs. This is important, given the possibility of resource planning and more effective and balanced allocation of budgetary funds. Very often certain projects, especially concerning construction and reconstruction, last decades because of annual changes in budget priorities and lack of funding. In case of medium-term budget planning, long-term infrastructure projects are possible, and the Ministries will be interested in the implementation of important programs, not only in the disbursement of funds. In the future, the medium-term plan will improve cooperation between the responsible bodies for the preparation of the budget and the budget forecast of the central and local level of government. Three-year budget plan can be the first step on the path to a long-term scenario that will generate long-term state strategy of the main directions of state policy. Moreover, the proposed cap in government spending may be a good benchmark for assessing the quality of state decisions. If we analyze the specifics of the document, its main problem is that the provisions of the budget resolution are very weakly correlated with the provisions of the state budget, which was passed in Parliament. This situation makes it a purely formal document. Other problematic issues are as follows: 1. The lack of explanation of the measures and directions of the state policy on achieving the proposed indicators. Most of them are quite declarative, making it impossible to assess how realistic they are. The question remains as following - on the basis of what calculations the main parameters of the budget resolution were determined. 2. One of the problems is the lack of a monitoring system and adjustments of the proposed expenditure caps, which makes it impossible to evaluate how realistic they are. This also applies to the planned revenues and expenditures for future years, for which the significant growth in the next 3 years is stipulated. In Ukraine, URS may depend not only on economic situation but also on the political one, which increases the risk. In addition, the law does not define any monitoring mechanism, there is no mechanism to adjust the proposed "cap" that is essential in the changing economic situation. The solution to this problem is to develop responsible planning of the necessary regulatory framework for the budget for monitoring and adjustment of deviations. The adjustment mechanism should be implemented with reference to previous plans and forecasts. 3. Problems of implementation of the three-year plan at the local level. This question is of particular relevance concerning fiscal decentralization. In Ukraine there is the situation when the budget is prepared without taking into account the real needs of the regions, preparation of budget requests of local authorities is purely formal, and all decisions are taken at the level of main managers of budgetary funds. Simple bringing medium-term budgetary planning figures to local authorities has nothing to do with the medium-term budget planning. Therefore, in the context of fiscal decentralization it is necessary to develop an effective mechanism of cooperation of competent authorities for its implementation in central executive authorities and at the local level. A three-year plan can give the local government an understanding of the importance of efficient use of resources and a constant search revenues of local budgets, and not only the expectation of permanent funding from the center. Scenarios. The future fate of the medium-term budget resolution can have 3 scenarios:  1) status quo - budget resolution will remain a formal document and its provisions will be poorly correlated with a budget proposed by the Cabinet of Ministers in September 2017. This will lead to the continuation of the chaotic and inconsistent state policy, the loss of state capacity to implement reforms and stimulate economic and social development, to the accumulation of systemic risks. 2) based on the proposed three-year budget resolution, the introduction of a medium term budget planning without a simultaneous reform of the entire system of strategic planning will not lead to the desired effect (predictability and consistency of the state budget policy). This can also create conditions for the permanent inconsistency of medium-term budget plans with the policy in relevant spheres of activity of state authorities. This scenario can bring all efforts spent on its preparation to nothing and does not protect against implementation of the risks associated with the uncertainty and frequent changes of economic policy priorities. 3) based on the proposed three-year budget resolution, the introduction of strict medium-term budget planning simultaneously with the reforms of the entire system of strategic planning is optimal. Medium-term budget resolution should be integrated into the system of state forecasting and program documents. Approval of the budget plan should be carried out annually together with the law on state budget for corresponding year, at the same time to prevent its refinement in subsequent years in the event of changes in the macroeconomic situation or state policy in a particular area. The lack of political will on transition to the medium-term budget planning on the basic of leading experience of European countries will not allow to achieve the following objectives: 1) conducting a balanced policy of forecasting of budget revenues and expenditures; 2) the realism of the budget decision-making and legislative interdependence of formation of the budget for the current year and medium-term fiscal plan will help to avoid political influence on the adoption of budgetary decisions; 3) improved cooperation between the responsible bodies for the preparation of the budget and the budget forecast of the authorities at the central level and local level; 4) avoiding populist decisions to increase social expenditures in pre-election periods; 5) improvement of the efficiency of public programs, taking into account capacity planning rather than annual dependence on the current budget, the budget funds will be more effectively distributed and balanced; 6) medium-term budget planning is the first step on the path to long-term scenario that will generate long-term state strategy of the main directions of the state policy.  ...

Angela Bochi