UCA presents journalist and media training project at World Bank workshop

Date: 27 February 2013
Other languages: Русский язык |

The University of Central Asia (UCA) presented the outcomes of its Budget Reporting for Journalists and Media Training project at the World Bank-hosted Information Matters – Transparency and Accountability in the Kyrgyz Republic (IMTAK) Project completion workshop on 19 February 2013 in Bishkek.

UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Development (SPCE) implemented an18-month Journalists and Media Training project under IMTAK to improve journalists’ ability to analyse, present and disseminate accurate fiscal and budgetary information in the Kyrgyz Republic. The workshop was attended by IMTAK participants as well as dignitaries, including Member of Parliament, Kurmanbek Dyikanbaev.

In his opening remarks, World Bank Country Manager for the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan, Alexander Kremer, emphasized the importance of transparency in the creation and management of government budgets: “The fact that Kyrgyzstan is a parliamentary republic means that each number in the budget is available to the public and is subject to review and examination by the public.” He noted how significant budget changes to reduce the national deficit by three percent underscore the need for initiatives which equip journalists with the information necessary to inform citizens and hold government institutions accountable regarding national budget formulation and expenditures.

World Bank Country Manager for the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan, Alexander Kremer, discusses the importance of transparency in the management of government budgets at the Information Matters-Transparency and Accountability in the Kyrgyz Republic Project completion workshop.

World Bank Project Lead and Senior Public Sector Specialist, Gregory Kisunko, reflected on the evolution of IMTAK, noting that five years ago representatives of the Agency of Local Government identified the need to understand the national budget as a priority issue. “Today, as a result of IMTAK, heads of local government, Aiyl Okmotu, meet regularly to discuss the budget. We have created the platform for that.”

A key finding of the Journalists and Media Training project, which engaged 210 journalists, was that journalists tend to cover the topics they are most knowledgeable about, revealed SPCE UCA Director, Gulnara Dzhunushalieva.

“Economic journalism is still a fairly new concept in Kyrgyzstan and many journalists are unfamiliar with budget terminology and topics. This project was designed to help participants build a core set of skills and a comfort level with the subject matter. Over the long term, we expect to see an increase in the number of articles covering important budget-related issues,” she said.

To further support the engagement of journalists and promote consistency and high quality reporting on public finance, UCA published the Russian-Kyrgyz-English Glossary of Terms and Concepts in Public Finance and Budget Process in April 2012. With definitions of over 500 terms and concepts, the glossary meets a critical need for Kyrgyz journalists to access standardized public finance and budgeting terminology for media use.

Member of Parliament, Kurmanbek Dyikanbaev described projects such as IMTAK as important cornerstones of democratic development; “With 120 seats, we, in central government, cannot be everywhere. These projects encourage people on the ground to understand the financial system and to get involved at the local level, in the management of the municipality.” He added that the government is currently formulating a strategy to increase effective budget management at the local level.

IMTAK participants, implementing partners and parliamentarians at the Information Matters – Transparency and Accountability in the Kyrgyz Republic (IMTAK) Project completion workshop.

Administered by the World Bank and financed by the Global Partnership Facility, IMTAK aims to build the capacity of media to ensure transparency and heighten awareness of budget processes. The media can play an important role in keeping government transparent and fiscally accountable by knowing what questions to ask and accurately reporting complex fiscal and bureaucratic information in a way which is easy for the public to understand.

IMTAK implementing partners in the Kyrgyz Republic included UCA, the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia, Alliance for Budget Transparency, the Development Policy Institute and the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange Press Club. IMTAK Project objectives were to:

а) improve responsiveness of public officials to requests on budget information through their enhanced literacy in budget matters and understanding of information transparency importance;

b) raise awareness of citizens and mass media on their rights to information, in particular, budget information and on how to use these rights;

c) promote a constructive dialogue on the budget between the communities and local governments; increase involvement of civil society representatives in the budgeting and improve its openness and transparency.

Since 2006, SPCE has graduated over 11,000 students from Naryn oblast and Bishkek with professional and vocational qualifications in accounting, entrepreneurship, tourism development, IT and applied languages that have improved their employment and income generating opportunities. The School is Central Asia’s first provider of post-secondary, short-cycle education with learning facilities in Khorog and Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Naryn and Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic; Tekeli and Taldykorgan, Kazakhstan.

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