Amid a global pandemic that is forcing governments around the world to launch new spending measures, the International Budget Partnership’s (IBP) latest Open Budget Survey shows why there is reason for concern: four out of five of the 117 governments assessed failed to reach the minimum threshold for adequate budget transparency and oversight, under international standards.
Governments, for instance, often fail to publish key budget documents, that would clearly explain their budget policies, decisions and outcomes, according to the new report. Worldwide, one-third of the eight key budget documents that governments should publish are not available to the public.
“While the pandemic clearly demands swift and decisive action, budget transparency, civic engagement and well-functioning oversight are imperative as well,” says Warren Krafchik, IBP’s executive director. “As governments respond to this massive public health emergency, budgets must remain open and transparent, and officials must allow inclusive public engagement during planning and implementation.”
As research by IBP and other organizations demonstrates, open budgets offer a promising pathway for countries to thrive socially and economically. They can restore trust in governments and strengthen frayed relationships between public institutions and the people they are meant to serve.
“This crisis has unfolded at a time of great frustration over stark public inequities and governments’ failure to address them,” Krafchik warns. Public trust could be further undermined if governments do not address the pandemic effectively and resort to action that is arbitrary or favors certain interests over others,” warns Krafchik.
While the latest Open Budget Survey (OBS) was completed just before the pandemic hit, it provides a telling snapshot of current government practices in 117 countries related to budget disclosure, opportunities for public engagement in the budget cycle, and effective checks and balances.