Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health in Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Walter Christopher, emphasized the value and potential of the techniques imparted to bolster the efficiency of the budgeting exercise. He was attending the high level briefing seminar following a week-long training workshop hosted by the ECLAC subregional headquarters for the Caribbean.
The objective of the workshop was to build the capacity of public officials to conduct Public Expenditure Reviews (PERs) with appropriate applications for their respective sectors. The initiative complemented the recently launched ECLAC debt for climate adaptation swaps proposal which is designed to promote fiscal responsibility and build the fiscal resilience of the Caribbean.
PERs are intended to align expenditures with government’s priorities. They are also intended to provide savings, either from expenditure reallocation or by reducing unproductive expenditures. In addition they improve fiscal management and can provide fiscal space especially when a country is experiencing high debt levels.
The workshop came at a very timely junction in the Government’s workplan, as Antigua and Barbuda is just about to publicly launch its Medium Term Development Strategy.
“The introduction of the concept of Public Expenditure Reviews will further equip senior civil servants with the tools necessary to assess the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of their programs”, noted Cordella Weston, Senior Budget Analyst in Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance. In this regard, Weston also emphasized that “gaining knowledge in this area will enable the government’s technicians, such as Budget Analysts to monitor and measure effectiveness and efficiency in the use of scarce resources, and to determine whether expended funds are being used appropriately to meet the strategic goals and policy set out by government”.
Also present during the high level briefing was ECLAC Caribbean’s Deputy Director, Dr. Dillon Alleyne, who offered valuable perspective on the way this training facilitates ECLAC’s ongoing project entitled “Strengthening the technical capacity of public finance officials in select Caribbean SIDS”. Other Caribbean countries to benefit from similar training workshops are Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Barbados.
Eminent regional economist Professor Vanus James facilitated the training, and highlighted the uniqueness of the project’s methodology. He explained that ECLAC’s approach underscored its commitment to building the capacity of the country, by not only providing participating countries with training, but by also making available specific “hand-holding” technical support to ensure that the techniques learned are fully understood and successfully implemented for the benefit of the respective Ministries.
On completion of the national workshops, a regional training module in forecasting and fiscal transparency will be held in Port of Spain for one week. The final phase of the project will include follow up technical assistance for the participating countries to support their implementation of the PER techniques.