The Egyptian fiscal disclosure puzzle (2000-2010)

Lobna Abdel Latif (Cairo University)

Lobna Abdel Latif (Cairo University)

In her paper “Are improvements in fiscal transparency in Egypt endogenous to fiscal outcomes?“, Lobna Abdel Latif (Cairo University) investigates the parliamentarians’ ability to hold the government accountable for its fiscal behaviour through the fiscal disclosure data they receive from government, over the period 2000-2010 in Egypt. According to Lobna, parliamentarians are only interested in data that hold the government accountable for what serves their own interests and constituencies. Through in-depth analysis of the MPs’ interventions in the floor discussion of fiscal affairs for two successive parliamentary terms over ten years (2000-2010), the study shows that the data disclosed were not the type demanded by parliamentarians; while MPs preferred data on targeted public goods, they received data about pure public goods on deficit and its attributes. In addition, data were not utilized to hold government accountable to its fiscal actions. Lobna hypothesizes that MPs did not request the government to share the right information that affects distributive decisions in parliament; her findings show that they even went into reducing the number of interventions on deficit and its attributes after they got data on those. Therefore, together with her research tem, Lobna calls for a reform of such “transparency-crippling structures”.

Interested in getting an explanation of the Egyptian disclosure puzzle? Read Lobna’s post “Opacity in the attire of transparency!!!: The story of fiscal disclosure in Egypt

Watch our interview with Lobna

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Opacity in the attire of transparency!!!

The story of fiscal disclosure in Egypt

This post was written by Lobna Abdel Latif, Professor of Economics (Cairo University), on her research “Are improvements in fiscal transparency in Egypt endogenous to fiscal outcomes?

Three successive waves of fiscal disclosure have taken place in Egypt starting from the late 1970s till 2007. Consequently, a lot of data were gradually included in budget reports. Data disclosed covered details on budget deficit and its main attributes such as energy subsidies and cost of fully funded pension system. Our hypothesis is that this gradual data disclosure was not aiming at injecting further transparency into the system but rather represented government-initiated reforms taken in response to other motives. How do we go around to prove this? Basically by arguing that for disclosure to be described as aiming at transparency, it has to be responsive, visible and cover the type of data demanded by Members of Parliament (MPs). Our analysis however shows that in the case of Egypt, disclosure has been nothing but responsive to budget deficit.

Content analysis – transparency did not increase accountability:

We have conducted in-depth analysis of the MPs’ interventions in the floor discussion of fiscal affairs for two successive parliamentary terms over ten years (2000-2010). We obtained data on over 900 parliamentarians regarding type of preferred information and reaction to availed information. Our analysis indicated that the data disclosed were not the type demanded by parliamentarians; while MPs preferred data on targeted public goods, they received data about pure public goods on deficit and its attributes. In addition, data were not utilized to hold government accountable to its fiscal actions. How could this mismatch between disclosure and effective accountability be explained? Our analysis pointed out that data were revealed by government to justify future actions that may be taken by government to control deficit and public debt and hence it was never provided in the format or type that generates greater fiscal accountability.

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To what extent is eliminating Malaria in Uganda using sprays and nets cost effective?

[This is a cross-post on a comparative study conducted by Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) as part of the Global Development Network’s project ‘Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability‘]

Despite all the efforts deployed in the fight against it, Malaria still represents a major burden in Uganda as it is one of the main diseases responsible for illness and death throughout the country. According to the Malaria Control Programme of Uganda (MCP), pregnant women, children under five years and HIV-positive people represent the most vulnerable segment of the society due to their low immunity.

In an attempt to add to the tremendous efforts directed at improving health system performance and increasing public awareness about the disease, a new nationwide indoor residual spraying program was announced by the Ministry of Health on September 2nd, 2013. Such program would cost the Government of Uganda around US$ 75 million. As part of the Global Development Network’s project Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability, aiming to help governments utilize their budgets more efficiently, the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) recently conducted a comparative study on the cost-effectiveness of indoor residual spraying and insecticide treated nets.

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Fighting corruption in development – The ‘development pact’


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Why are politicians and administrators the ones to discuss and shape up the development agenda ? This is how Anupama Jha (Transparency International India), one of the GDN Award Finalists for the Most Innovative Development Project, started her presentation today, wondering why a top-down approach is always applied when it comes to addressing development.

It goes without saying that excluding poor from discussions around development and fighting poverty does not help to move forward. According to Anupama, such top-down approach leads to a lack of inclusive development and growth due to an increase of corruption in both political and administrative institutions, and disproportionate access to political and administrative decisions. This in turns results in a lack of trust of the people in their elected political leaders.

Anupama presented an innovative anti-corruption tool aiming to create incentives for political actors to deliver against the development agenda, as well as opportunities for an empowered participation of poor people in shaping up the agenda and enforcing public accountability and transparency.

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Corruption: A “plague” to the Nigerian economy

Why aid is bad for Africa - Cartoon Movement

Why aid is bad for Africa – Cartoon Movement

Corruption is a global phenomenon and its adverse effect on economic development has been a problem facing countries worldwide. Africa is one of the continents that are deeply implicated by corruption and one of the countries that suffer the most is Nigeria. Nigeria is rated amongst the most corrupt nations of the world, and as one of the top most failing countries in Africa. Transparency, accountability and proper political leadership are all factors that should be discussed in order to lead to good governance and less corruption.

I came across a stimulating paper on the GDNet knowledge-base by Samson A. Adesote and John O. Abimbola titled “Corruption and national development in Nigeria’s forth republic: a historical discourse,” that debates and analyzes recommendations to the above factors.

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ERF 18th Annual Conference on “Corruption and Economic Development” kicks off in Cairo

Economic Research Forum (ERF) kick-started its 18th Annual Conference today with its first plenary session, featuring an impressive line-up of speakers. The focus was on the issue of measuring corruption and its consequences, framing the discussion that will be further explored at the plenary sessions over the next two days of the conference.

ERF 2012 Conference - Opening and Plenary session 1

ERF 2012 Conference - Opening and Plenary session 1

Following the opening remarks of Ahmed Galal, ERF Managing Director, and Abdlatif Al-Hamad (Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development), Professor Paul Collier highlighted how the costs of corruption are hard to measure and greater than it is possible to imagine. He provided examples of both ‘grand’ and ‘petty’ corruption and contrasted commercial public sector corruption with the type found in the private sector.

Daniel Kaufmann (Brookings Institution) discussed the many different measures of corruption and their relationships, underlining the importance of the interactive relation between transparency, freedom of speech and association, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. According to him, transparent countries do better in terms of fighting corruption. However, the impact remains limited when the rule of law is weakly implemented. “One does not fight corruption by ‘fighting corruption’, voice and democratic accountability matters” he stated.

Finally, Serdar Sayan (TOBB University of Economics and Technology) underscored new approaches to gauging corruption in different parts of the world, using survey-based measures to assess perceptions.

A pre-Conference workshop exploring aspects of the Arab awakening took place yesterday in an attempt to assess where the Arab mass movements came from, understand the changes that have emerged in the region over the past year and identify lessons learned from other countries/regions which experienced a political transition in the recent years.

Panel session 1: Political Economy Settlements

Panel session 1: Political Economy Settlements

Videos interviews with workshop speakers and participants are available on ERF blog and ERF 2012 playlist onYouTube