The Open Budget Survey is the world’s only comparative, independent, and regular assessment of transparency, oversight and participation in national budgets in 120 countries.
As is the case in every round, the 2021 survey represents the collective work of our global network of researchers in each country. This round, however, we did something different. We leaned into partnership and worked hand-in-hand with a select group of partners to co-author our global report and eight regional reports. This new approach has allowed us to benefit from the rich insights of our global partners and present key recommendations to spur action at the global, regional and country level.
The 2021 survey comes at a time when accountable and inclusive public budgets are more urgent than ever. The pandemic has led to the first rise in global extreme poverty in a generation, inequality is soaring and democracy is backsliding. The wealthy have become wealthier, while the excluded, especially women and marginalized communities are bearing the brunt of the fallout. Governments need to open up to public dialogue around how best to manage scarce public resources if we are to meet these challenges. Inclusion can yield democratic and development dividends in this time of great need and great disruption. If there is one common theme in this latest Open Budget Survey, it is that reform is possible anywhere.
Over the last 13 years, we have documented steady gains in global transparency. The average transparency score in the survey has increased more by than 20 percent since 2008. Download the report.
This paper documents the rapidly growing empirical literature that can plausibly claim to identify causal effects of transparency or participation in budgeting in a variety of contexts. Recent studies convincingly demonstrate that the power of audits travels well beyond the context of initial field-defining studies, consider participatory budgeting beyond Brazil, where such practices were pioneered, and examine previously neglected outcomes, notably revenues and procurement. Overall, the study of the impacts of fiscal openness has become richer and more nuanced. The most well-documented causal effects are positive: lower corruption and enhanced accountability at the ballot box. Moreover, these impacts have been shown to apply across different settings. This research concludes that the empirical case for open government in this policy area is rapidly growing in strength. This paper sets out challenges related to studying national-level reforms; working directly with governments; evaluating systems as opposed to programs; clarifying the relationship between transparency and participation; and understanding trade-offs for reforms in this area. Download the paper.
This paper forms part of the Open Government Partnership’s “The Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government 2022 Edition”.
The benefits of open and accountable government are a longstanding focus of advocates of fiscal transparency. Fiscal accountability enables governments to ensure that public resources reach their targeted beneficiaries and achieve their intended policy outcomes. Government commitment to fiscal openness and accountability acquired renewed significance with the onset of COVID-19 and the introduction of related emergency fiscal policy packages.
In May 2021, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) published a rapidly executed assessment of transparency and accountability arrangements in the fiscal policy responses implemented in 120 countries in response to the pandemic. IBP’s report was important given preexisting concerns with growing inequality, weakening democracy, and the universal demand for efficient and equitable handling of public resources when the crisis hit.
With more than two-thirds of the governments assessed providing limited levels of accountability in the implementation of early COVID-19 fiscal responses, the overall findings of IBP’s report, “Managing COVID Funds: The Accountability Gap,” were bleak. However, the assessment also unearthed examples of good practices that can – and should – be showcased to enable governments to learn how to better manage public resources in times of emergency. The message from the report was clear: When a crisis hits, no one government agency has all the answers. It takes all hands on deck to formulate an effective response and a resilient, inclusive recovery. The good practices in the report highlight the benefits that engagement from the accountability ecosystem can bring.
This paper draws on the findings of 15 case studies of COVID-19-related fiscal policy responses from around the world that were documented by IBP after it published its report in May 2021: Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and the United Kingdom. These cases were chosen based on the findings from the rapid assessment, and they showcase various types of good-practice responses that illustrate how governments can achieve speedy policy responses without undermining accountability. The paper offers lessons to governments, oversight bodies (legislatures and supreme audit institutions) and other external stakeholders in fiscal accountability (including development agencies and civil society organizations) on emergent good practices in ensuring fiscal transparency, citizen engagement and effective oversight during crises. IBP recognizes that different contextual and institutional factors will determine how and why governments adopt lessons from good practices. For this reason, the paper focuses on identifying crosslearning themes that governments can emulate, while at the same time recognizing the constraints on replicating and adapting some of the lessons. Download PDF
Fulfilling national and international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adapting territories, societies, and ecosystems to a changing climate, will require the mobilization and management of significant financial resources. While ensuring that developed countries provide financial resources to developing countries is critical, as is stipulated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, there is also a need to mobilize resources at the national level in developing countries. The Paris Agreement has invited all parties to contribute to climate action, including the mobilization of finance and making these financial flows consistent with low greenhouse gas emissions and resilient development. This means that all countries united by common principles should, within their respective capacities and challenges, create public policies and budgets that help tackle climate change.
The Climate Finance Group for Latin America and the Caribbean and the International Budget Partnership present this methodological guide, which is designed to support the work of civil society and other non-governmental stakeholders, as well as governmental stakeholders from central and local governments, and legislative representatives interested in exploring the public budget’s role in tackling climate change. Download PDF.