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Hassan Nahon calls for ‘citizens’ budget’

Marlene Hassan Nahon has called for a more interactive way for MPs across the floor to deliver and manage this year’s budget address.

In a press statement, her first since resigning from the GSD, Mrs Hassan Nahon cited comments previously made by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, that the budget address is “about more than just numbers”, “more than just an address on the second reading of an Appropriation Bill,” it is a “State of the Nation Address”.

An Appropriation Bill essentially authorises the government to spend money, while a State of the Nation Address provides the Chief Minister with the opportunity to account to Gibraltarians and to Parliament what had happened during the 2015/16 financial year, and to set government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for the 2016/17 financial year.

In the statement, Mrs Hassan Nahon also called on the Government to adopt the initiative of the The International Budget Partnership, which proposes a ‘citizens budget’.

The Partnership also proposes a process of Budget Literacy, with which they mean that, ultimately, governments should aim to ensure that the public has a firm grasp of the many ways that the budget affects their lives.

In conjunction with this initiative, it is not unknown for leading developing economies’ governments to invite their citizens to provide them with suggestions on matters that they may want to be addressed in the Budget.

Marlene Hassan Nahon said: “As the date for this year’s Budget Address is the first week of July, I thought that there might be value in soliciting your comments on what you would want addressed in the 2016/2017 Budget Address. This, particularly since the Budget Address is more than a month off.”

The Gibraltar Government responded to Mrs Hassan Nahon’s statement yesterday evening by stating that the public is already engaged in providing ideas to the Government and to the Chief Minister for each Budget.

Nonetheless, it welcomed the ‘constructive’ statement adding that it put forward ideas that can make the important Appropriation Session of the Parliament easier for people to understand and engage with.

In a statement of its own the Government said that Budget now reaches out to the public more than it ever did in the past.

“It is live-streamed, published both on social media and on the website, and we distribute a booklet containing the Budget’s headlines.”

“This Government is proactive in its attempts to bring the Budget home to people in an understandable manner.”

Mr Picardo said: “I think Ms Hassan Nahon's proposal is to be welcomed, although I am pleased to say that a lot of what she proposes is already happening.”

“Throughout the year we receive representations of ideas and requests for consideration of matters that I take into account when finalising our national Budget for each financial year. Many of these proposals come to me via social media on my personal accounts (on Twitter and on Facebook) and by email to either my personal address or to the official addresses at No6 Convent Place.”

“It is also true to say, and an important consideration which Marlene will no doubt have in mind, that many of the requests that people make have to be carefully costed to ensure that they are affordable. Ideas also have to be tested against unintended consequences which could have more wide-ranging implications for our public finances than might at first appear to be the case.”

“In addition, we have been very careful to always ensure that our manifesto commitments are reflected in our Budget measures. In this way we give effect to the choices that people have made in the General Election.”

“In the circumstances, and with the above caveats, I nonetheless very much welcome this statement and initiative from Marlene which augurs well for the work on which she is embarking as an Independent Member of the Gibraltar Parliament.”