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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Australia nowhere in IBP budget survey, NZ No 1

Australia satisfies the criteria for membership of the Open Government Partnership with a score of 12 out of the 12 points that are relevant in our case. Sixteen is the maximum score. 

It may come as a surprise that Australia is not rated on the one remaining criteria worth four points, Fiscal Transparency, because the OGP assessment relies on the ratings published in the International Budget Partnership Open Budget Index. 

Australia is not among the 100 countries rated by the IBP. Full Report 2012 - English.

This puzzled me two years ago and still does. Particularly, without being too parochial, as New Zealand is rated No 1 with 93/100 IBP points. Seriously, good on you Kiwis!

The International Budget Partnership says it is "the only independent, comparative, and regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world." This the fourth survey, finds widespread failure of governments to provide sufficient opportunities for citizens and civil society to engage in budget processes: "the state of budget transparency around the world is dismal: only a minority of governments publishes significant budget information."

Most countries in the Asian region are included but not Japan(?). The only Pacific island nations surveyed are Papua New Guinea (56/100 points), a big improver, and Fiji (6/100). Many of our major aid recipients are way down the scale.

Some weeks ago when the 2012 Survey appeared I contacted IBP wondering whether the explanation was they just haven't been able to find a local partner. In NZ it is the NZ chapter of Transparency International.

But no, despite our G 20 membership and the chairmanship coming our way next year, our seat on the Security Council and whatever other world standing credentials we roll out, the explanation is simply, we just don't cut much ice - the IBP doesn't operate here, they're stretched for resources etc. Japan and Canada are the only other G20 members in the same boat with us.

Of interest, if/as we move into the OGP world, Warren Krafchik of the IBP is a member of the OGP Steering Committee. Scope for someone to have a quiet chat over coffee sometime about why we should be somewhere near the world 100 mark? 

I would think Australia would rate well in the survey if we were assessed, despite the fact that little has been heard of Operation Sunlight since Andrew Murray and Lindsay Tanner departed the national scene.

Elena Mondo Supervisor, Open Budget Initiative replied to my email, explaining the situation as follows:

"The choice of including additional countries in the Open Budget Survey depends on a number of factors: in first place, however, we aim at having a reasonable global representation in the countries that we include, so that we have, as much as possible, good geographical representation and countries with different characteristics across the world (income level, aid dependence, oil/mineral producer, democracies vs. autocracies, etc…).

We do have a fairly good representation of western/high income/OECD countries, and we receive a significant amount of requests every round: so we have to prioritize quite a lot when faced with the decision of which countries we could add into the Survey. So, unless a country is absolutely strategic to IBP and not yet included in the Survey (I cannot think of any at the moment), we do not really go in search of new groups in new countries – if anything it’s the other way round!

At the beginning of each Survey research round, we receive many requests from many countries (I think I counted as many as 20 last round) , and we do not have financial or staff resources to take on many additional countries: so we have to go through a touch selection process. We do not work in Australia, and we were not in touch (from what I can remember) with groups that expressed interest to complete the Survey. But, beyond that, as explained above, we have many request and limited financial and human resources, so we would still need top prioritize quite drastically.

Ideally we would like to expand in order to cover the whole world, but we are already over stretched in terms of how much we can realistically deal with, and the inclusion of any new country is weighted against those factors. We have not yet started the process to undertake the 2014 Open Budget Survey, and we will start discussions in May, most likely. We are keeping a shortlist of countries where there has been interest in participating in the research, and depending on whether we will have additional resources, we will then decide whether and which ones to add."

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