The Open Budget Survey 2008 finds that the state of budget transparency around the world is deplorable. The average score for the OBI 2008 is 39 out of a possible 100. Only five countries of the 85 surveyed make extensive information publicly available as required by generally accepted good public financial management practices. The worst performers tend to be low-income countries and often depend heavily on revenues from foreign aid or oil and gas exports.

Lack of transparency undermines accountability and prevents participation. This encourages inappropriate, wasteful, and corrupt spending and—because it shuts the public out of decision making—reduces the legitimacy and impact of anti-poverty initiatives. Weak formal oversight institutions exacerbate the situation.

At the same time, the Survey shows that a number of countries have significantly improved their performance over the past two years. It also shows that many more governments could quickly improve budget transparency at low cost by making publicly available the budget information that they already produce for their donors or internal use. IBP calls for urgent action to improve budget transparency and accountability.