How Open is Your Government? Find out here

February 11, 2009

     By Duncan Green     

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.

February 11, 2009
Duncan Green