PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has provided a “strong answer” to what senior public officials across the Caribbean have been searching for in order to improve the budgeting process of public administrations, according to the participants of a week-long regional training workshop that provided officials with robust tools and techniques necessary for more effective management of public finances.
Held at ECLAC Caribbean’s sub regional headquarters in Port of Spain, from 19 to 23 September, the workshop focused on forecasting and fiscal transparency in the conduct of public expenditure reviews (PERs). PERs are intended to align public sector expenditure with the priorities of national governments.
They also promote increased savings, either through resource reallocation or by reducing unproductive expenditure. By improving fiscal management, PERs can provide much needed fiscal space especially when a country is experiencing high debt levels.
The week-long training was an integral element of ECLAC’s ongoing project on “Strengthening the technical capacity of public finance officials in select Caribbean Small Island Developing States”. The project’s focus on improving capacity to use public expenditure reviews for better budgeting, resource allocation is vital to ECLAC’s comprehensive approach towards supporting the efforts of Caribbean economies as they pursue sustainable debt management and economic viability.
This project complements ECLAC's recently launched debt for climate adaptation swap initiative, which is intended to promote fiscal responsibility while affording Caribbean economies much-needed fiscal space to invest in climate adaptation and mitigation projects and green industries that build the environmental resilience of the Caribbean while reigniting growth in the countries of the subregion.
Eminent Caribbean economist Professor Vanus James – who facilitated the training – indicated that the project offered training as well as follow-up assistance to ensure that the techniques learned are fully assimilated and successfully implemented for optimum benefit; underscoring ECLAC's continuing commitment to building national capacity.
Discussions during the workshop highlighted that while the efficient allocation of limited government resources is essential to ensuring that national priorities are adequately and appropriately resourced, there is need for better consultation and collaboration within and across ministries, if the PER methodology is to be successful. The buy-in of both the public and private sectors, the active engagement of civil society, and the existence of an enabling environment focused on improved efficiency and effectiveness of government operations are also critical pre-requisites for PER success.
Eighteen public officials attended the workshop from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, and St Kitts and Nevis. Participants were enthusiastic at the prospect of using the forecasting techniques learned to enhance budgeting and planning processes in their respective countries.
The workshop followed five national trainings held in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, and Barbados. The final phase of the project will include follow up technical assistance for the participating countries to support their implementation of the PER techniques.