Global Report

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According to a report issued yesterday, which is released once every two years by independent non-pro-national government experts, governments of Arab countries slightly improved the ability of their citizens to obtain information on budget over the past two years. The Open Budget Survey for 2010 revealed that three Arab countries (Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan) have increased the level of transparency by 10 out of 100 points between 2008 and 2010. This increase means that the citizens of these Arab countries have greater freedom of access to information they need to participate in decision-making and holding the government accountable for how to manage the public money.

Dr. Ibrahim Saif from the Economic and Social Council, who developed this report, said: We would like to commend the governments of Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen for the clear improvement in the level of budget transparency and accountability, which is an important measure to move towards a system of national budget.  This ensures the participation of their citizens and its response to them.

Despite these improvements, transparency of the general budget in the Arab region is among the lowest averages worldwide. The average survey degree of Open Budget Index for nine countries in the Arab region (Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, and Sudan) is 21 out of 100.

This result accounts for less than the half of the global average as for the 94 countries listed in the survey. Jordan ranked first in the Arab region with 50 out of 100 points while Iraq ranked last, scoring 0 out of 100.

The Open Budget Survey for 2010, which was initiated by the initiative of the International Budget Partnership, is considered the only systematic, comparative and independent criterion to determine budget transparency and accountability all over the world.

“More transparency allows a better control, improves the opportunity of obtaining credit and better policy choices, and delivers more developed services” Warren Krafchik, Director of the International Budget Partnership said.  He mentioned Nigeria as an example on how the lack of budget transparency allows corruption and mismanagement to go unchecked. He also referred to Mexico as a case, in which access to budget information gave poor farmers the opportunity to receive aid allocated for them, which previously were allocated to wealthy farmers.

Despite the progress scored by (country name), the report reveals that 74 out of the 94 countries assessed failed to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability identification with regard to national budgets. This opens the door to misuse the public money.

Based on documented evidence, the Open Budget Survey for 2010 found that merely seven out of the 94 countries assessed released comprehensive budget information while 40 countries didn’t release any meaningful budget information. Without this information, it is difficult for public and control institutions to hold the government accountable, or to have a meaningful participation in decision making in relation to the use of public resources. South Africa, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United States scored the highest ranks in transparency, while the worst performers included China, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, and new democratic Iraq, where these countries provide little or no information to their citizens.

The Open Budget Survey uses internationally recognized criteria to give each country a transparency score based on a 100-point scale called the Open Budget Index. Despite the general lack of budget transparency around the world, the Open Budget Survey for 2010 revealed a nine-point average improvement among the 40 countries, which performance has been measured by three consecutive Open Budget surveys. The most interesting improvement was made by countries that were previously among the low-scoring countries, such as Mongolia and Liberia, which still do not meet the best practices but achieved a noticeable improvement over time.

“The good news is that all governments — regardless of their income levels, political systems, or aid dependence — can improve budget transparency and accountability.  This can be achieved by allocating additional small cost or effort to publish all budget information developed online, and call for public participation in the budget process” said Krafchik.  “On the long run, we would like to see the international community establishes a set of global criteria for budget transparency. Such criteria could organize widely accepted principles and guidelines with respect to transparency to provide civil society organizations, the media, and legislatures with an effective means to activate improvements within countries”, he added.