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4th Webinar of the PDM Network: The Role of Parliament in the Oversight of Public Debt Management

The fourth webinar of the PDM Webinar Series entitled The Role of Parliaments in the Oversight of Public Debt Management successfully concluded on June 10, 2024, featuring as speakers Lars Jessen, Lead Debt Specialist, Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment, World Bank and Mitchell O’Brien, Fiscal Governance Lawyer.

The PDM Network webinar provided an in-depth exploration of the role of parliaments in shaping the legal framework for public debt management. It emphasized the importance of checks and balances, transparency, and accountability in the practices of debt management. The webinar underscored the need for explicit guidance on the role of parliaments in this context, a topic that has received comparatively less attention than the role of governments in the framework on public debt management.

Lars Jessen, Lead Debt Specialist at the World Bank, delved into the criticality of clarifying the role of parliament and its technical staff in the realm of debt management. He emphasized the need for a shared language between parliamentarians and Debt Management Offices (DMOs) to enhance communication and mutual understanding. Lars provided an overview of the multifaceted roles that parliament can undertake, ranging from the enactment of laws to performing oversight functions. He stressed the significance of parliament's involvement in approving the annual borrowing plan and the strategy for debt management.

Building on the points raised by Lars, Michell O'Brien, a lawyer focusing on fiscal governance, discussed the normative basis for the involvement of parliament in debt management. He brought attention to the evolution of debt transparency and its pivotal role in ensuring accountability in debt management. Michel advocated for the importance of parliamentary oversight in enhancing debt management practices and suggested that parliaments should be endowed with both the power to demand answers (answerability) and the authority to enforce (enforcement powers) to effectively oversee debt management.

The webinar concluded with a discussion on the advantages of increased parliamentary engagement in debt management. These benefits include fostering public confidence and incentivizing policymakers to adhere to fiscal rules. The discussion also touched upon the challenges associated with such engagement, such as the potential for increased parliamentary involvement leading to divergent approaches from the plans laid out by the DMOs. The presentations underscored the need for continuous dialogue and training to bridge the gap between parliaments and DMOs, and advocate for a more significant involvement of parliaments in strategic decisions regarding debt management. 


Key takeaways:

This webinar offered a comprehensive examination of the complex relationship between parliaments and debt management. It advocated for a more proactive and informed role for parliaments to ensure effective oversight and accountability in public debt management.