Aware of the difficulties that citizens face to insert themselves in the debates and decisions of the government on fiscal and budget issues, the organization Open spaces created the Fiscal Observatory.
To create this platform, the organization analyzed thousands of documents from the past 16 years and seeks to provide greater accessibility and reduce information gaps.
Daniel Santamaría Ots, Senior Analyst of Public Policy of Open Spaces, indicated in a press release that the new tool is an interactive digital repository of information, initially on the budget and, gradually during this year, will include the issues of debt, municipal finances and economic recovery.
In terms of the budget, the platform includes graphs where users can access historical data, from 2006 to the present, of income and expenses that can be viewed by subject areas (34), by agencies (133-170) or by programs ( 878).
The EA team analyzed and manually entered 41,740 individual fields from about 2,128 documents, divided by: 24,677 budget expense entries, 7,652 budget entry entries, and 9,411 budget program entries.
The search combinations that the interactive panel allows the user to do are innumerable. Documents can be downloaded for future reference in image formats (PNG) or to work on (CSV).
Portal topics are addressed through guiding questions and, in addition, timelines are included to locate important dates.
“Through the Fiscal Observatory we provide clear information to answer those questions that people have about the use of the money they pay in contributions and taxes and that many times do not find an answer. Our goal is for more people to learn about these issues and to be able to participate in the debate and decision-making, ”said Santamaría Ots.
The economist also explained that the information analyzed and entry to the website begins in 2006 because the current economic crisis in Puerto Rico began that year.
“At a time when the discussion of the budget process between the governor, the Board and the Legislative Assembly begins, we have no doubt that this platform will be a very useful tool for experts and academics as well as for the ordinary citizen, and that it can be an instrument for a conscientious debate on government revenue, its commitments and public spending ”, he stated.
“We invite citizens from these public processes in the government and present their questions to us to continue adding answers and layers of information to the platform,” he added.
Furthermore, he said that Observatoriofiscalpr.com it also contains a section of 38 suggested readings in Spanish and English on the four main topics discussed on the platform.
“In Open Spaces we want to continue creating new instances that promote greater fiscal transparency of government efforts and that facilitate citizens’ access to information on what is done in government with the money they receive from taxpayers. People have the right to know and decide whether or not they agree with the decisions, “said the executive director of Open Spaces, Cecille Blondet.
“Making the government’s economic issues transparent has been a routine practice for decades in many jurisdictions in the United States and in other countries. Our goal is to change the culture of opacity that has been cultivated in Puerto Rico ”, he highlighted.
The internal resources of Open Spaces that contributed to the project of the Observatoriofiscalpr.com were: María Cristina Moreno, María Mercedes Rodríguez, Alexis López and Santamaría Ots. Students from the EA internship program also participated, Fabiola Castillo (New York University) and Joaquin Garcia (University of Puerto Rico). The design of the new website was the artist Cesar Sesio and scheduling Leonardo Saltamerenda.
The platform was developed with input from: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Metabolic Studio of the Annenberg Foundation.