Measuring and Promoting Budget Transparency: The Open Budget Index as a Research and Advocacy Tool

Jun 22, 2011

July 2011 | by Paolo de Renzio and Harika Masud

Transparency in public budgeting has been a recognized principle of sound governance for a long time. Yet, reliable measures of budget transparency are hard to come by. This article introduces the Open Budget Index (OBI), a tool based on surveys by independent researchers that compares key budget information published by governments across the world. Data from the 2010 survey covering 94 countries reveal that on average the state of budget transparency around the world is poor. Countries with lower incomes, weaker democratic institutions, and higher dependency on foreign aid and hydrocarbon sales tend to be less transparent. However, a number of countries have improved the quantity and coverage of the budget information that they publish, in some cases following civil society pressure based on the OBI findings. More generally, the OBI data help identify easy steps that governments and other actors could take to further improve budget transparency.