How transparent and accountable are different countries’ national budgets? Every two years, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) runs the Open Budget Survey to try to answer this question, by measuring the budgets of over 100 countries against a wide range of openness standards. The results for 2012 are released today, with an interactive data explorer developed for the IBP by the Open Knowledge Foundation.
A recent post by Albert van Zyl on the IBP’s Open Budgets blog spells out the consequences of a lack of transparency: money vanishing into thin air, the projects it was destined for never happening, and communities being kept in poverty. As the post says, “There are sufficient public resources available globally to make substantial progress on eradicating extreme poverty and creating sustained economic development, but only if these funds are spent effectively and equitably”. For that to happen, van Zyl argues, budgets must be transparent, participatory, and accountable. The survey results show to what extent different countries achieve this or fall short of it.
The explorer gives users a number of ways to visualise the data, not only from the latest survey but from its three predecessors, starting in 2006. A map view shows the changing geography of openness over the four surveys, while a timeline (shown below) shows the movements of individual countries over the same period. A more detailed page of rankings shows graphically how each country’s score is calculated from ninety-five tests of openness, each with four levels from most to least open. A datasheet for each country presents the full data, letting the user see how it has performed on each test in every survey. Users can also generate custom reports, or download the entire dataset.
Another useful feature allows users to see how a country’s score might change for the next survey in 2014. Starting with the 2012 setup, decide what changes to make to your chosen country’s budget systems, and the change that would result to its openness score is shown.
The IBP is a project of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based think tank which has carried out highly-regarded work for over 30 years on alleviating poverty through national fiscal policy, both at home in the US and internationally. The Open Budget Survey has established itself as an important and independent tool, and the OKF is delighted to be involved in helping present the results. We hope they will be useful to policymakers, campaigners, journalists, and citizens in helping to push for more open and transparent budgets all over the world.