Comrades or Culprits? Donor Engagement and Budget Transparency

Budget transparency has come to be considered a key aspect of governance. Over the past decade, donors have invested increasing resources in strengthening processes through which budget transparency in developing countries can be enhanced. According to the 2008 Open Budget Index (OBI) Report, however, aid dependency and budget transparency appear to be inversely correlated. This article looks at the role of donor agencies in promoting or preventing budget transparency in aid dependent countries. It analyzes data for a sample of 16 aid-dependent countries included in the OBI, to test some preliminary hypotheses and select six countries for which more detailed findings are then presented. All of these countries have implemented reforms aimed at enhancing budget transparency, with substantial donor support. These, however, often had only limited success, partly because they were not well adapted to the local context, and partly because donors put limited emphasis on improving public access to budget information. Donor efforts were also often offset by other characteristics of donor interventions, namely their fragmentation, lack of transparency, and limited use of program aid modalities such as budget support and pooled sector funding.