Joining a webinar was not new to me, but being one of the presenters in the CEF’s webinars was a whole new experience. It started with testing technology which I found crucial for better delivery.
In April 2017, the CEF organized a webinar ‘’Understanding Baseline vs. New Policy Estimates’’. My role was to present the Albanian up-to-date experience with differentiating budget implications of new and baseline (i.e. existing) policy initiatives. Firstly, I provided a brief background, explaining how the budget management system was shaped throughout the past two decades. Secondly, I elaborated the causes and consequences of arrears accumulation by the end of 2013, and also explained the steps taken to clear a considerable amount of arrears and prevent new ones, while underpinning the importance of embarking into the exercise of distinguishing budget implications of new policies from the existing ones. Lastly, I emphasized the importance of collaboration with line ministries in this exercise, while providing a list of potential benefits for them that would drive them to be effectively engaged in the collaboration.
I would also like to highlight the cases of other presenters from which I gained a lot. The Dutch case was presented by Tjeerd Tim, Fiscal Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Finance. There, the Parliament adopts budget ceilings which are divided into existing and new policies budget estimates, which in my opinion should be the ultimate goal of the similar exercise that the Albanian Ministry of Finance is currently undertaking. Suzanne Flynn, IMF PFM Advisor for SEE, explained in detail how the budget submissions of line ministries in the form of existing and new policies can ensure the establishment of credible and well-functioning medium-term expenditure frameworks. The Slovenian case presented by Saša Jazbec, State Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, confirmed the need for establishing cooperation between ministries of finance and line ministries to ensure efficient utilization of budget funds. If they manage to jointly identify less rational uses of budget funds, the subsequent savings can be utilized to additionally finance the existing policy priorities or the new needs of line ministries.
From the perspective of “learning”, it was crucial that this webinar involved speakers from various countries who shared their own experience in dealing with the topic of the webinar. The topic itself is also very important for improving public financial management in SEE countries, as it provides ministries of finance, and subsequently governments, with detailed and timely information on the budgetary costs of new and existing policy initiatives. Furthermore, this practice allows assessment of policy initiatives’ compliance with the government program and/or other strategic documents, as well as assessment of the occurrence risk of arrears in the short and medium term.
I strongly believe that the distinction between baseline and new policies provides an excellent opportunity for line ministries to improve the quality of their medium-term budget submissions, as it “pushes” them to further scrutinize their policy proposals and related performance indicators, as well as their budget implications. Moreover, it can enable line ministries to better identify potential savings, which can then be directed towards policy priorities that really need additional funding.
This webinar was an excellent opportunity to learn from the hands-on practices of other presenters, but also to share the Albanian experience and lessons learned. I learned a lot of useful things during the webinar and I will definitely put them forward for discussion in the Albanian Ministry of Finance, and hopefully implement them in the near future. I consider webinars to be an effective learning tool that can support our capacity development efforts, especially if we are given a chance to be involved as speakers to share our own knowledge.
* You can find presentations and listen to the recording of this webinar here.