The coordinator of UTAO, Rui Nuno Baleiras, said there is resistance from the active political class to reform the legislative process of Budgets, but believes that the absolute majority is a “golden opportunity” to do so.
“From the active political class, unfortunately, I have not yet found signs of interest in discussing these structural problems in the way we prepare the State Budget proposals and the way they are negotiated and voted on in the Assembly of the Republic”, said the coordinator of the Budget Support Technical Unit. (UTAO), on the report presented to parliament in March on the reform of the budget legislative process.
Even so, he considers that “in this legislature, which is a golden legislature for having an absolute majority and which was born of an abrupt dissolution of the previous legislature caused by some of the problems identified in our report, namely budgetary knights, I still have the hope that there is a golden opportunity to change the way we hypocritically carry out State Budgets“.
In an interview with Lusa, Rui Nuno Baleiras said that there are three reasons that make the debate on the reform of the budget legislative process difficult.
The first, he points out, is that this would imply “reforming a part of the Portuguese parliament” and institutions “hardly reform themselves from within”.
Second, the way deputies are evaluated.
“There is a little habit of the performance of deputies in the Assembly of the Republic being evaluated in terms of quantitative benefits and where quality is absent”, he considers, exemplifying that priority is given to the number of interventions in plenary, the number of petitions or the number of proposed amendments to the proposed State Budget.
“A bench presenting 200 or 300 proposed amendments every year gives a lot of points for internal evaluation“, he points out.
Thirdly, he identifies, “some parties that use the media stage that will now begin, especially after the debate in the specialty has started, want to capitalize on this media stage for public actions in the following months”.
The process has penalizing consequences, he assesses, noting that the Budget approved in the final global vote by the Assembly of the Republic “without the 100/200/300 amendments that parliament introduced being reflected in the Budget”.
“The truth is, we pass a Budget law every year where the pieces don’t match each other.. The policy measures that are embedded there and that were added in the last week of voting were added without altering the accounting statements”, he says, stressing that “if these measures lead to an increase in expenditure or a decrease in revenue, we do not have the certainty – nobody is, not even the Ministry of Finance – that there will be coverage in the approved Budget to implement them”.
A deficit above expectations just doesn’t occur, he says, because governments introduce “rationing measures in the central administration’s treasury during budget execution”, which “cause many measures that the opposition managed to get passed are not even implemented”.
“The very functioning of public services is greatly impaired, because of certain rules that are introduced in the Budget Law and then densified months later in the budget execution decree-law and that make the managers of the directorates-general and public companies not have the autonomy to execute the Budget”, he concludes.
* Lusa Agency