KATHMANDU, Jan. 24: Nepal has dropped down the global budget transparency index as the government continues to make it harder for citizens to understand and influence budget decisions affecting their future.
Nepal has been revealed to be amongst the countries with drops in transparency and accountability around their national budget, according to a major biennial report of Open Budget Survey-2012 released by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) on Wednesday.
The Open Budget Survey is the only independent, comparative, regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world. Produced every two years by independent experts not beholden to national governments, the report found that Nepal has dropped in terms of its ranking in the Open Budget Index, which uses internationally recognized criteria to give each country a transparency score on a 100-point scale.
This means that the government has made it more difficult for citizens to get information about what is being done with public money and the opportunity to hold the government to account.
The Open Budget Survey 2012 found that 77 of the 100 countries assessed fail to meet basic standards of transparency. This matters most because budgets are the main tool governments use to set policies for raising and spending public funds, which promote development and meet the needs of the country’s people.
“It is unfortunate that Nepal has dropped in ranking with the score 44 out of 100, which is only marginally higher than the average score of 43 for all the 100 countries surveyed but is well below the scores of its neighbours in South Asia.
The score in 2010 was 45,” said Taranath Dahal, Chairperson of Freedom Forum, which conducted the research for Nepal. “Nepal should produce and publish a Pre-Budget Statement and a Citizens Budget to improve the score which has remained largely constant since the OBI 2008´.
Higher scorers for the 2012 edition include New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Sweden, India, France and Norway, while the worst performers include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Fiji, China, among others.
The impact of open and accountable public finance on development within countries is particularly important as the international community begins to think about the next set of Millennium Development Goals.
“Budget decisions and processes are critical to addressing many of the world’s most pressing problems,” states a press release issued by IBP while quoting its Director Warren Krafchik.
This is more than an abstract governance issue; it’s about the quality of life for millions of people around the world, he further said.
The average Open Budget Index (OBI) scores for the 40 countries that have comparable data for all four rounds of the Survey has gone from 47 in 2006 to 57 in 2012, with nearly all regions of the world showing improvements.
This increase in the average includes substantial improvement in a number of individual countries. For instance, Afghanistan´s score jumped from 8 in 2008 to 59 in 2012. This example shows how the commitment of governments – accompanied by other favorable factors such as donor interventions, international standards and civil society pressures – can yield significant and rapid improvements in budget transparency, the report reads.
They also show that it is possible for Nepal to return to a higher level of transparency quickly. In this context, Nepal´s decline is particularly troubling. “Transparency along with opportunities for public participation in budgeting can maximize the positive outcomes associated with open budgeting. Such opportunities should be provided throughout the budget cycle by the executive, legislature and supreme audit institutions,” adds Dahal.
It is noted that the IBP collaborates with civil society around the world to use budget analysis and advocacy as a tool to improve effective governance and reduce poverty.