From the Open Budgets Blog

How to Bridge the “Participation Gap” in Government Budgets

The concepts of budget transparency and budget participation are mutually reinforcing: without information, people are unable to participate from an informed position; without the opportunity to participate, merely providing people with information can be an empty exercise. Yet, as the latest round of the Open Budget Survey reveals, most countries perform much better on transparency than on participation, while a few seem to provide more participation opportunities yet not enough information. IBP’s Paolo de Renzio explores this “participation gap,” zooming in on a number of countries to look at why it occurs and how progress can be made.

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What Civil Society Should Know About How Governments Are Disclosing Budget Information Online

The rise of new communications technologies has made it easier than ever before to access publicly available budget information. Many governments have seized the opportunity and begun to develop budget websites and “transparency portals” that host large amounts of data in machine-readable formats. But how widespread are these initiatives? What are some emerging good practices? And how can civil society organizations take advantage of this new opportunity to enhance budget accountability? This post shares findings from recent IBP and Fundar research on digital budgets.

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Beyond Wish Lists: Budget Deliberation, Not Empty Participation

For budgets to be truly open, governments must not only provide information but also meaningful opportunities for citizens and civil society to engage in budget processes. As 51 countries prepare to draft new national action plans for the Open Government Partnership, IBP’s David Robins looks at what commitments are needed to ensure progress on budget transparency and participation.

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Civil Society Keeping a Close Watch on Social Spending in Madhya Pradesh, India

The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is home to 75 million people and faces a host of development challenges. IBP partner Samarthan and the People’s Budget Initiative have been working to ensure the state budget addresses such challenges and takes into account issues experienced by poor and marginalized communities. But civil society’s work does not stop once the budget is presented. Samarthan’s Dr. Yogesh Kumar explains why translating what’s on paper into positive outcomes requires constant vigilance and reassessment.

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New IBP Publications

IBP’s 2015 Annual Report: Strengthening Foundations. Pushing Boundaries

IBP’s 2015 Annual Report documents our work over the past year, focusing on what we have achieved and what we have learned. Highlights include a section describing our ongoing work and impact in six countries, an overview of our 2015 research and international advocacy, six essays that discuss key lessons that have come out of reflecting on our work, and six short vignettes that capture the power of budget work.

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Creating Incentives for Budget Accountability and Good Financial Governance Through an Ecosystem Approach: What Can External Actors Do?

This paper brings together the findings from a joint research project by IBP and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Sector Program on Good Financial Governance. It examines the roles that actors both within and outside government play in ensuring budget accountability. The findings build on both organizations’ work in this area, and are based on country studies carried out in Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Georgia, Indonesia, Kenya, and South Africa

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Deliberating Budgets: How Public Deliberation Can Move Us Beyond the Public Participation Rhetoric

In this paper, Jason Lakin and Mokeira Nyagaka argue that the concept of public participation in government decision making, particularly with respect to the budget process, needs to be refined. They propose that the concept of public deliberation is more useful and, ultimately, offers more specific guidance for thinking about how the public engages with budgets.

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Further Reading From the Field

  • The March 2016 South African Journal of Economics features an article by IBP’s Babacar Sarr that assesses how fiscal performance in sub-Saharan African countries is affected by budget institutions inherited from Anglophone and Francophone systems.

  • Connecting the Dots for Accountability,” a joint report from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, School of International Service, American University, International Budget Partnership, Government Watch, and  SIMLab, explores how civil society can address the challenge of isolated and fragmented transparency and accountability initiatives by building stronger connections between actors, tools, tactics, and levels of governance.

  • The United States Public Interest Research Group released its seventh annual evaluation of U.S. state transparency websites. It finds that, while transparency around government spending is improving, many states still lag far behind.

  • Equality and Non-discrimination in Tax Policy” is the first in a series of advocacy tools on human rights and tax policy. It was produced by the RightingFinance Initiative, which aims to assist education and dissemination of standards on tax policy and human rights contained in a 2014 report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

  • A blog post from the Community Engagement Learning Exchange discusses how communities can take practical steps toward open budgeting and outlines four guiding principles the author deems critical to real progress.
Digital Budgets Webinar on May 19

On Thursday, May 19 at 10 a.m. EST, IBP’s Paolo de Renzio and independent researcher Jorge Romero Leon will present the main findings of their recently published study “Digital Budgets: How are Governments Disclosing Fiscal Information Online?”



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