Deputy of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis,
Doctor of Economics, Professor
Today in Uzbekistan, the goals of ensuring the openness of budget information and active participation of citizens in the budget process are being consistently implemented. The main goal of this is to increase the welfare of citizens and to expand the opportunities of social benefits for the population by a more efficient use of state budget funds.
It should be noted specially that in the new version of the Constitution, Uzbekistan was declared a social state, and the constitutional obligations of the state to further glorify human dignity and social protection of the population were separately fixed. On the basis of the supreme law – the Constitution, the social obligations of the state have been tripled. Therefore, an additional 30-40 trillion soums are allocated annually from the state budget in this direction.
The launch of a mechanism to involve citizens in the budget process serves as a separate tool in finding solutions to the problems that plague the population in places and making the public a participant in the budget process.
Therefore, as part of the reform of the economic sectors, consistent efforts are being made to expand the possibilities of using economic and financial statistics and introduce new mechanisms to increase the transparency of the budget process. In particular, in order to further increase the openness and transparency of budget information, and strengthen parliamentary and public control over the formation and spending of budget funds, starting from 2019, a new mechanism was introduced to allocate at least 10% of the additional funds of local budgets for the orientation to activities formed on the basis of public opinion. Starting from July 1, 2021, the minimum amount of additional funds of the district (city) budgets allocated to the financing of activities formed on the basis of public opinion has been increased from 10 percent to 30 percent. From January 1, 2022, the new procedure was gradually introduced to direct 5 percent of the approved total expenditures of the respective budgets in all districts (cities) for the financing of activities formed on the basis of public opinion.
According to the procedure, at the first stage, initiative proposals/projects for improving the infrastructure of the district (city) will be presented by citizens. In the second stage, the submitted proposals/projects will be sorted according to the approved criteria. In the third stage, proposals/projects of proactive citizens who have passed the competition will be put to the public vote. In the fourth stage, the winning proposals/projects will be determined based on the results of public voting. In the fifth stage, the implementation of public control and civic initiatives will be monitored.
According to the statistics, nearly 57 trillion soums have been allocated to 9,500 neighborhoods (mahalla) within last three years. At the expense of these funds, internal roads, kindergartens, schools and hospitals were repaired in 3,500 neighborhoods. In 1019 neighborhoods, the supply of drinking water has been improved, and 452 have been modernized.
Only in 2022, large-scale construction and beautification works were carried out in 4,000 neighborhoods at the expense of nearly 27 trillion soums allocated from the budget within the framework of “Prosperous Village” (“Obod Qishloq”), “Prosperous Neighborhood” (“Obod Mahalla”) and other programs. Hundreds of schools, kindergartens, medical facilities were built and renovated. Electricity, drinking water, natural gas and heat supply, road and transport systems have improved.
In 2022, about 1.1 trillion soums were allocated to the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund” for the financing of projects received in the initiative budget process (775.7 billion soums from the equal half of 5% of the district and city budgets, 334.1 billion soums from the 30% of the additional sources formed at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2021 and the beginning of 2022).
About 1.1 trillion soums for the financing of the projects received in the initiative budget processes held in 2022 by region (775.7 billion soums from 5% of district and city budgets, 30% of the additional sources formed by the end of the 3rd quarter of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 334.1 billion soums) was directed to the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund”.
When the proposals were analyzed by regions, 10,815 proposals were received in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, 8,968 in the Bukhara region, 7,258 in the Surkhandarya region, however relatively few offers were received in the Syrdarya region 3236, in the Navoi region 2,341, and in the Andijan region 2,283.
More than 6.7 million votes (19 percent of the total population of our country) were given by citizens across the country to the proposals made by citizens on the results of the process through the “Open Budget” information portal.
In order to further encourage citizens who actively participated in the public budget and to support projects that received a lot of votes, the decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. 197 dated April 7, 2022 was adopted in order to finance (in addition to 2,215 projects worth 1.1 trillion soums) 139 projects with a value of 85 billion soums, that each received more than 2 thousand votes, but were not declared winners. According to it, 85 billion soums were allocated for financing 139 projects.
Here, if we focus on the analysis of the first season of the “Initiative Budget” process in 2023, repairing of regional internal roads was recorded as the largest number of projects in the section of sectors, and we can see that a total of 10,400 projects in this direction were put to the voting process and made up 26 percent of the total number of projects.
According to the results of the voting process, within the funds directed to the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund” A total of 1,666 projects with a total value of 1.5 trillion soums were declared winners in 1,419 neighborhoods (193 neighborhoods had two or more projects as winners). More than 7.7 million votes were cast by citizens for these projects, which made up 48 percent of the total votes.
As a result, there are a total of 1,692 projects with 500-1,000 votes, 1,127 projects with 1,000-2,000 votes, 1,163 projects with 2,000-5,000 votes, 128 projects with 5,000-10,000 votes, and 18 projects with more than 10,000 votes not declared a winner.
In this regard, the decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. PQ-117 dated April 10, 2023 “On measures to further improve the practice of initiative budgeting and support active neighborhoods” was adopted in order to support citizens and improve the initiative budget process. According to the decree, additional 1.3 trillion soums were allocated for the implementation of 1,309 projects, each of which received more than 2,000 votes, but was not declared the winner, in the initiative budgeting processes held within the first season of 2023.
According to Article 119 of the Budget Code, additional sources of district and city budgets are free balance funds determined at the beginning of each year, funds obtained by over-fulfilling the revenue forecast of district and city budgets determined according to the results of the first-third reporting quarters, funds from the sale of property transferred to state income, funds from the sale of rights to land plots on the electronic trading platform, funds released as a result of a decrease in budget funds in accordance with the fourth part of Article 120 of the Budget Code.
Proposals of enterprising citizens aimed at solving problems in their regions will be placed on the “Open budget” information portal based on approved criteria. In order to create a wide opportunity for citizens to participate in initiative budgeting processes, “mobile” groups and “initiatives’ corner” were organized in each neighborhood and village, which help in the process of leaving proposals and voting on the “Open Budget” information portal.
Based on the established procedure, the budgets of the State budget and state special purpose funds, drafts of the main directions of tax and budget policy, as well as reports on the execution of the budgets of the State budget and state special purpose funds must be submitted to mandatory public discussion before submission to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan. On the annual report on its implementation, its conclusions on the results of external audit and assessment are mandatory published. Funds directed to the financing of activities formed on the basis of public opinion are accumulated in the personal treasury account of the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund” opened in the form of an extra-budgetary fund, and the use of these funds for other purposes is strictly prohibited.
The initial amount of funds required for the implementation of the selected activities will be determined according to the project-estimate documents based on the conclusion of the network enterprises. After the project is recognized as the winner, the project-estimate documents for its implementation will be developed and the final cost of the initiative will be specified. If the final cost of the event is higher than the initial cost, according to the project-estimate documents, in these cases, the additional funds required for the implementation of the project will be covered from the existing or future funds in the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund” of the relevant district (city). Based on the initial cost of the winning project, it is not allowed to reduce the volume of works (goods and services) performed within the project.
Proposals selected by the working body will be placed by the working body on the “Open budget” information portal for organizing online voting within three working days from the date of selection. Voting will take place within twenty working days from the date of posting of proposals. After the winners are determined according to the results of the voting, the remaining funds formed in the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund” will be directed to cover the additional required difference in connection with the clarification of the final cost of the projects that have been declared winners or to the “Initiative Budget” processes that will be held in the future.
The authors of the winning projects will have the opportunity to monitor all stages of the implementation of activities and evaluate the completed work in real time. Within the framework of public control, citizens can apply to the competent authorities in the form of a complaint in case of violations of the law or deficiencies by monitoring the activities. Citizens are not allowed to interfere in the implementation of the project in any other form (identification of the contractor or implementation of the work by themselves, development of project-estimate documents, etc.).
Another aspect is that according to the results of each quarter, the “Open Budget” information portal evaluates the activities of state authorities in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of citizens’ involvement in the budgeting process and the implementation of initiative budgeting measures. The evaluation system ranges from “0” to “100” points, and districts and cities are divided into “green”, “yellow” and “red” categories according to the results of the initiative budgeting processes. In this case, the assessment of the quality and truthfulness of the selection stage by the working commission is taken into account – the difference between the initial and final cost of the projects, the unjustified rejected projects and the degree of subsequent rejection of the winning projects as a result of incomplete studying the feasibility of the projects. In addition, the level of involvement of citizens in the budget process is the ratio of the number of projects and votes received in the relevant area to the existing population. The case where the appropriate part of the additional funds of the district or city budget is directed to the fund is taken into account in assessing the timely and complete transfer of funds to the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund”. The effectiveness and efficiency of the implementation of activities formed on the basis of public opinion is carried out by the authors through the “Public Control” section of the “Open Budget” information portal with the help of the system of evaluating the quality and stage of the works performed of the project. Moreover, the degree of organization of systematic work with customers on the implementation of projects is evaluated by the ratio of the total allocated funds to the appropriated funds based on the financing of the projects.
According to the results of each quarter, based on the points collected by districts and cities according to the criteria, 71 to 100 points are considered as “green area”, 55 to 71 points are “yellow area”, below 55 points are considered as “red area”. Report on the execution of the initiative budget process to the end of the quarter of district and city governments, which have been recognized as “red areas” will be heard in the Senate of the Oliy Majlis.
According to the results of the first quarter of this year, as a result of the work done in this direction, 60 districts and cities scored from 71 to 100 points – recognized as “green region”, 94 districts and cities scored from 55 to 71 points – recognized as “yellow region”, 54 districts and cities scored less than 55 points and were recognized as “red areas”.
On the basis of the model regulation, decisions are being made on the basis of a special feature of each district and city, which provide for the procedure for directing the funds of the district or city budgets to the activities formed on the basis of public opinion, and their practical implementation is ensured. As a result of the measures taken, a lot of issues accumulated over the years in the field of social and road construction has been resolved. Residential areas are being renovated and road infrastructure is being improved.
In 2023, the parameters of the State budget, taking into account the transfer, will be 232,607.0 billion soums of revenue, 257,734,000 billion soums of expenditure, and 25,127,000 billion soums of deficit.
Here, let’s focus on the figures of the initiative budget. From April 17 to May 7, 2023, 10,317 initiatives were received within the framework of the “My Way” program, and 8,093,918 votes were cast. Of these, a total of 412.4 billion soums of funds were allocated for 519 winner projects. In the period from February 6 to April 7, 2023, 55,970 initiatives with 16,129,764 votes were put forward within the framework of the “Initiative Budgeting” program. 33,680 of them were approved and 22,290 were rejected. The amount of funds allocated to the “Initiative Budgeting” was 2,882.9 billion soums. The fact that the initiatives are reflected in the life of citizens is also reflected in their activity. In 2021, 1,200,000 people took part in the voting process, and this year their number increased to 16 million in the 1st season alone. Also, for the first time in the “Initiative budgeting” program, all neighborhoods of the republic participated with their own project. This process has also led to great changes in people’s outlook. While the issue of infrastructure development was primary in the initiatives of the early days when the process began, attention has now increased to the field of health and education. For example, more than 1,000 project proposals were received for the repair of medical facilities in neighborhoods, and 5,000 projects for equipping schools with desks and computers.
In fact, in the process of initiative budgeting, it is of great importance to solve the relevant and urgent problems stated in the appeals received from citizens in a short period of time, in the formation of the state budget and in the development of socio-economic development projects of the regions. From this, from January 1, 2022, 50% of the funds allocated for the repair of territorial internal roads in the parameters of the district and city budgets began to be directed to the repair of internal roads, determined on the basis of public opinion through the information portal “Open budget”.
From the state program on the implementation of the development strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 in the “year of attention to people and quality education” the goals of expanding the initiative budget practice and the financial independence of the neighborhoods were determined separately. In particular, during 2023, 8 trillion soums will be allocated from the state budget to finance projects formed on the basis of public opinion, of which 4 trillion soums will be allocated for the “Prosperous Village” and “Prosperous Mahalla” programs. 4 trillion soums will be allocated from the State budget for the financing of activities carried out within the framework of neighborhood infrastructure development projects.
Starting from 2023, the amount of funds has been increased. While maintaining the current procedure, no less than 6 billion soums will be allocated for the initiative budget processes. At least 5-6 projects will be implemented in each district or city, and funds will be increased in 53 districts or cities. In addition to the district and city budgets, 30 percent of the additional funds of the regional budgets will also be allocated. That is, an average of 500 billion soums will be allocated from district or city budgets, and 1 trillion soums from regional budgets.
The fact that allocating funds to many non-winning projects in the “Initiative Budget” program ensures the practical realization of such a grandiose attitude as to please the people. It is worth to note that based on the principle of human dignity, the amount of funds allocated to neighborhoods in 2023 has increased to 25 trillion soums. In the “year of attention to people and quality education” 30 trillion soums will be allocated to 5,800 neighborhoods.
In general, the work done on the improvement of neighborhoods and infrastructure development serves to fundamentally change the image of our country, and gives practical meaning to raising the living standard and civilization of the people. Most importantly, the social activity of our compatriots, the sense of involvement in the fate and future of the neighborhood and nation is increasing. The introduction of the “Initiative Budget” program plays an important role in this regard. Based on the proposals put forward within the framework of this program, many urgent issues affecting the life of the population are being solved in a timely and effective manner.