The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC or the Commission) will mark its 20th anniversary of existence in 2014 as one of the recognized leading institutions giving advice and recommendations to organs of the state in the national, provincial and local spheres of government on financial and fiscal matters in South Africa. Between 1994 and 2005 the Commission played a central role in the development and evolution of the intergovernmental fiscal relations (IGFR) system. The Commission has played this role through a long-standing and broad-based research program focused on the many challenges of equitably distributing nationally raised revenue. It has made significant recommendations on the size and distribution of the provincial and local government equitable share. Indeed, it is recognized as one of the foremost contributors to the provincial and local government equitable share formulae as well as the multi-year budgeting framework used by government. One of the key messages coming out of the 10th Anniversary Conference the Commission hosted in 2004 was that of stability in provincial and local government allocations (implying a fairly predictable and transparent intergovernmental transfers system or at least the foundations there of had been firmly established and that the second phase of the Commission’s work was to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the transfer systems and make recommendations on how the three spheres of government should respond at the margins especially with the emergence of previously unavailable data). The budget reforms with respect to the national and provincial government spheres also presented new sets of information that could be utilised for monitoring and evaluation as well as oversight by legislatures in both spheres of government. The issues of local government also became important as the effectiveness of transfers is felt by individuals living in their local environment and thus the Commission’s move towards looking at local government as a specific area of focus in the broader IGFR system following the ushering in of democratic local government and the subsequent reforms started in 2000. From 2006 to the present, work at the Commission has both been reactive to current issues within the intergovernmental fiscal system and also forward-looking – seeking to manage change within the system in a consistent, logical and managed fashion. This period has been characterized by a deliberate attempt to enhance applied modelling capacity and begin to question the initial principles and parameters that guide the equitable sharing of nationally raised revenue. This has meant that the Commission has increasingly dealt with cross-cutting policies which must be addressed by all three spheres of government – fiscal frameworks, issues 2 related to poverty reduction and understanding and investigating ways to address the notion of progressive realisation of rights, environmental issues and so on. No matter how they are ultimately enacted, government budget reforms debated for the past 4 years following the global economic crisis will substantially alter the structure of IGFR in South Africa.
To celebrate 20 Years of existence, the Commission will be hosting a 20th Anniversary IGFR International Conference. The Conference will take place in Cape Town at the International Convention Centre from 10 to 13 August 2014. The Conference will be looking back and evaluating 20 years of South Africa’s IGFR practice, as well as the choices that will have to be made going forward given developments such as the new growth path and the development policy objectives of a developmental state (encapsulated in the National Development Plan) that has been agreed in Parliament in general and government in particular.
Given the above, the overall theme for the Conference which provides an overarching framework for the sub-themes will be:
“Review of South Africa’s Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations System: An African Perspective on Fiscal Decentralization”
With this overarching framework in mind, there will be a call-for-papers and papers that will be commissioned from practitioners and/or other experts to address issues and problems related to reviewing of the IGFR systems and fiscal decentralization policies in South Africa and Africa. Drawing from the discussions, the topics for papers and some proposals for presenters would include the following:
- Will South Africa’s intergovernmental fiscal relations (IGFR) institutional arrangements and fiscal decentralization polices meet the challenges of the developmental state in addressing poverty, inequality and unemployment?
- Institutional accountability and costs in meeting intergovernmental fiscal relations constitutional and legal requirements in South Africa – A 20-year review (to include norms and standards, performance and failure).
- Designing fiscal decentralization policies to meet the infrastructure investment challenges of economic development – An African perspective.
- The impact of macro to microeconomic dynamics in balancing fiscal decentralization polices among competing socio-economic obligations.
- Twenty years on: the institutional and fiscal policy challenges of providing basic services within the current IGFR policy framework in South Africa.
- Fiscal decentralization and IGFR in the face of the new challenges of environmental costs and the needs of promoting the green economy.
- Accounting for socio-economic disparities in equalization grants for inclusive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – A cross country case study evaluating the impact of equalization grants in SA and the DRC.
- IGFR and fiscal decentralization for sustainable and inclusive development in emerging African economies. A comparative study of Ethiopia and Kenya.
- The design of fiscal decentralization grant schemes to address geo-spatial inequalities and poverty in rural African economies: An Ethiopian perspective.
- Appropriate fiscal decentralization policies to meet the needs of the knowledge economy in the presence of human capital backlogs.