What is public debt?

Public debt can be quantified as the external obligations of the government and public sector. More than just a number, public debt is a complex issue with many political and economic implications.

Why is public debt oversight important?

When countries have high levels of public debt, their ability to fund important social and infrastructure programs is limited by the high cost of servicing debt. When public debt reaches unsustainable levels, governments can be forced into austerity programs, which cut services and supports across society (often disproportionately impacting women and girls). Oversight of public debt is important to ensure that the total debt levels and the composition of the debt portfolio are kept in check. Many of the countries Nexus PFM works in are in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.

What is parliament’s role in public debt oversight?

Parliament has two important roles to play in relation to public debt. The first role is parliament’s legislative role, which includes passing laws related to debt and debt management, and the second role is parliament’s oversight role, which involves holding the government to account through the entire budget cycle (formulation, approval, execution, audit/oversight). Parliamentarians can call on the government to improve debt transparency, debate debt-related matters, and invite experts to address matters related to debt and debt management through parliamentary committee hearings.

What is civil society’s role in public debt oversight?

1. Forming Debt Justice Alliances: Central to enhancing CSO activity is the concept of forming debt justice alliances. These alliances bring together a diverse array of CSOs under a shared vision of promoting fiscal justice and transparency. By uniting their strengths, CSOs can magnify their advocacy efforts and exert a more substantial influence on governments’ debt management practices. These alliances serve as powerful platforms for collaborative action, holding authorities accountable for responsible debt management and advocating for funds to be channeled towards initiatives that ensure equitable societal development.

2. Monitoring Debt and Fiscal Targets: CSOs can actively participate in the monitoring of debt and fiscal targets set within international agreements and domestic policies. By scrutinizing these targets and evaluating their alignment with broader development goals, CSOs play a crucial role in ensuring that fiscal decisions are not driven solely by financial considerations but also by their impact on societal well-being. This vigilance contributes to responsible debt management practices that prioritize the interests of citizens.

3. Advocating for Debt Relief: Advocacy for debt relief emerges as another pivotal avenue for CSOs to impact public debt oversight. Through strategic initiatives and campaigns, CSOs can advocate for debt relief measures that alleviate the financial burdens faced by nations, particularly those with limited resources. This advocacy contributes to the creation of fiscal space for critical development initiatives, ultimately fostering equitable progress and poverty reduction.

4. Improving Debt Transparency: CSOs can actively champion improved debt transparency, demanding comprehensive and timely information on public debt management practices. By advocating for enhanced disclosure of debt-related data, CSOs contribute to a transparent financial landscape that fosters public trust and ensures that fiscal decisions are made with full awareness of their implications. This transparency empowers citizens to hold governments accountable for their financial decisions.

From leading global debt relief initiatives to advocating for enhanced debt transparency, bolstering debt management capabilities, and engaging in the budget process to influence the limited fiscal space shaped by the debt situation, CSOs can be catalysts for meaningful change. Nexus PFM Founder and Principal Consultant Geoff Dubrow has hosted a series of podcasts on the role of civil society in oversight of public debt. Excerpts from these podcast interviews are used in training and workshops.

What does
Nexus PFM Consulting offer?

Supporting Parliament:

1. Regional Conferences and Customized Workshops: Engage in regional conferences tailored to best practices in public debt management. Delve into the pivotal role of legislatures in debt oversight and fiscal transparency. Through in-depth workshops, provide insights to parliamentary delegations on optimizing their capacity for effective debt management oversight.

2. Capacity Building for Oversight Committees: Equip parliamentary staff and committees with the tools they need to excel in public debt management oversight. Tailored workshops and consultations are designed to enhance their ability to scrutinize public debt practices and ensure responsible fiscal management.

3. Long-term Strategy Development: Collaboratively craft strategies to engage oversight committees in public debt management and budgetary oversight. By leveraging consultations with committees and relevant parliamentary offices, I support the formulation of robust long-term plans that optimize parliamentary involvement in shaping sound debt management practices.

Supporting Civil Society:

1. Workshops on Open Budget Processes and Debt Transparency: Lead workshops exploring open budget processes and public participation in the budget process. Provide insights into entry points to participate in the budget process. Understanding key indicators for debt and fiscal transparency.

2. Workshops to enhancing CSO Activity related to public debt: Enhance CSO contributions in the realm of public debt oversight. Embrace the power of forming debt justice alliances, uniting a diverse range of organizations for amplified influence. Develop the skills to monitor debt and fiscal targets, steering responsible practices. Advocate persuasively for debt relief and champion improved debt transparency, reinforcing financial accountability.

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