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Budget Transparency – ANSA Arab World

Budget Transparency

Budget transparency is a key element of effective government given the relevance of budgetary information for understanding and assessing the work of government, its priorities, policies, and programs; its implementation focus, and its problems; existing gaps in the provision of public services and the work of institutional checks and balances within government and across branches of government.

The ANSA-AW understands budget transparencyas a set of conditions leading to:

(a) the timely and accessible publication of all relevant information to assess the government’s macroeconomic analysis, budget allocations, policy programs, activities and outcomes, as well as its internal and external accountability processes;

(b) the existence of rules and mechanisms to ensure that when budget and policy information is not proactively disclosed it can be accessed by citizens and organizations;

(c) the existence of rules and mechanisms to ensure the information is comprehensive, accurate and can be verified and compared across time; and

(d) the existence of means for social monitoring and participation in the different stages of the budget cycle.

the International Budget Partnership (IBP) and its national partners identifying eight basic documents that should be made available: Pre-Budget Statement; Executive’s Budget Proposal; a Citizens Budget; the Enacted Budget; In-Year Reports; a Mid-Year Review; a Year-End Report; and an Audit Report.

From this definition it should be readily evident why budget transparency matters to accountability: it establishes the basis for knowing what the government does, and how it does it, it establishes the rules through which budget allocations, which are the most effective means of assessing what the government prioritizes, are proactively disclosed and when detailed, can be accessed through specific requests. Because everything governments do depends on allocations, budget information is central for monitoring policy and for holding authorities accountable for their actions. And this monitoring and accountability are broadly understood as central to good government. That is why all international organizations and agencies acknowledge the importance of participation and monitoring in the budget process. And that is why it is an international good practice that should be encouraged in the region, through the ANSA-AW strategy.

Budget transparency is in bad shape in the Arab World, because many of the basic budget documents are not produced, or are produced but not made public; because there are no access to information regimes in place, and because there have been few efforts to carry out applied budget work, analysis monitoring and audit exercises in the recent past.

Source: World Bank, Public Financial Management Reform in the Middle East and North Africa: An Overview of Regional Experience. 2010, Washington D.C.

The Open Budget Survey was applied in all countries relevant for the ANSA-AW strategy but one (Palestine), with the following results: There is only one country that produces some information, Jordan, and it is still far from producing substantial information.The other five countries produce no more than ‘minimal’ information, scant or none.There were setbacks in four of the six countries, Jordan was the only country with substantial improvements, and no comparison is possible in Tunisia. The situation is especially dire in Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt, where only the enacted budget, in-year and year end reports are produced and published, and where the audit report is at least produced, even if it is note everywhere made public. There is substantial variation between countries, which will require a detailed and careful consideration of the baseline and strategy in each country.