The Road to Budget Transparency: Learning from Country Experience

Publication Type: Papers
November 2017 | by Alta Folscher and Paolo de Renzio
The Road to Budget Transparency in Six Countries
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Budget transparency — the public availability of comprehensive and timely information about public finances — is a key precondition for promoting an informed public dialogue around policy priorities, and for ensuring government accountability. Providing public access to sufficient budget information enables citizens and civil society groups to understand how governments collect and spend revenues and to engage in monitoring and advocacy that can affect decision making regarding public budget policies. Yet, according to the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey, only a limited number of countries provide access to budget information that is sufficient for these purposes. Many countries have improved their levels of budget transparency, but then seem to get stuck in the middle ranks of the Open Budget Index (a global comparative measure of government budget transparency that is drawn from the Open Budget Survey) with scores that do not surpass 60/100 — the point at which governments are considered to be publishing sufficient information to enable public accountability. Why is that? And what have those governments that managed to break through that barrier done to guarantee that their citizens have access to adequate amounts of budget information?

This paper examines the budget transparency practices of six countries (Argentina, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, and Uganda), some of which successfully moved over the 60-point threshold, while others remained stuck in the middle of the Open Budget Index. It aims to identify not only catalytic factors that may have prompted governments to take steps to improve budget transparency but also some of the more specific steps they took (or did not take) in order to do so. It also examines the barriers that they faced in achieving and sustaining those improvements.

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