How Open is Your Government? Find out here

The latest ‘Open Budget Index‘ (2008), produced by the Open Budget Initiative, ranks governments according to the information they make available to the public throughout the budget process. The main findings are:

Only five countries of the 85 surveyed—France, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States—make extensive information publicly available as required by generally accepted good public financial management practices.

On average, countries surveyed provide minimal information on their central government’s budget and financial activities.

Twenty-five countries surveyed provide scant or no budget information. These include low-income countries like Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua, and the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as several middle- and high-income countries, such as China, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.

The least transparent countries are mostly located in the Middle East and North Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa.

The worst performers tend to be low-income countries and often depend heavily on revenues from foreign aid or oil and gas exports.

Many poor performers have weak democratic institutions or are governed by autocratic regimes.

In Croatia, Kenya, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, significant improvements either were influenced by the activities of civil society groups or have created opportunities for greater civil society interventions. Important improvements in budget transparency were also documented in Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, and Papua New Guinea.

There is also evidence that good performance can occur in challenging contexts: Jordan and South Africa stand out among their regional counterparts. Among lower-income countries, Peru and Sri Lanka both provide their citizens with a significant amount of budget information.

Here’s a mini league table from this week’s Economist. For the full rankings see here.

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2 Responses to “How Open is Your Government? Find out here”
  1. But providing transparent budget processes does not necessarily translate into good governance? South Africa is a good example. Its democracy may be evident on paper – it does all the right things and says all the right things but this has not created equal access to opportunities, or an effective opposition. As it veers towards a one party state, corruption, weak rule of law (evident in the up coming case against the ANC president), worsening poverty, an inadequate response to a disease targeting 15% of its population, and a large proportion of its citizens illiterate and without access to the internet its hard to see how open financial processes matter.

  2. Abel

    In the case of Peru, the reforms in order to open up the budget were carried out by the transitional government (lead by Valentin Paniagua) and completed by Alejandro Toledo.
    It seems to me that the current government is not contributing to enhance and deepen those reforms. For example, the participatory budgeting for sub-national governments is experimenting something like a fatigue, thus it is urgent to speed-up this process.

    Interesting post. I will read the full report.

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