Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nepal not transparent in budgetary process

The country is not transparent with its budgetary process, according to a major biennial survey report released today globally.
"Nepal is among the countries with the biggest drops in transparency and accountability in their national budget," said Open Budget Survey 2012 that has revealed that the country has scored 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 South Asian countries.
Nepal had scored 45 in 2010.
"It is unfortunate that Nepal has dropped in ranking with a score of 44 from 2010's 45," said chairperson of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal. Freedom Forum had conducted the research for Nepal.
The country falls in a category that provides some information. The survey has categorically divided the countries into five — extensive information, significant, some, minimal and scant or no information — categories based on their scores.
"Nepal should produce and publish a pre-budget statement and a citizens budget to improve the score which has remained largely constant since the Open Budget Survey 2008," he said, adding that the incumbent government's apathy towards the public is also reflected in the report.
The International Budget Partnership releases the Open Budget Survey every two years as an independent, comparative, regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world.
Produced by independent experts not beholden to national governments, the report revealed that Nepal has dropped in terms of its ranking on the Open Budget Index, which uses internationally recognised criteria to give each country a transparency score on a 100-point scale.
"The low score means the government has made it more difficult for citizens to get information about what is being done with public money and to hold the government to account," Dahal added. "The survey report is important as budgets are the main tool for governments to set policies for raising and spending public funds, which promote development and meet the needs of its citizens."
The impact of an 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," commented director of International Budget Partnership Warren Krafchik. "The success of efforts like those to reduce maternal mortality, eliminate persistent poverty, provide all children with access to high-quality education, and address the impact of climate change, among others, hinges on whether countries make the right budget choices and whether those decisions are implemented effectively," he said, adding that it is more than an abstract governance issue as it’s about the quality of life for millions of people around the world.
"At the current slow rate of progress it will take at least until 2030 for all countries to reach a reasonable level of budget transparency. This could mean a generation of wasted resources and missed opportunities," commented Krafchik.
Lack of transparent data for budget reporting makes it far more difficult to monitor progress against the current and next generation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As world leaders begin to think about the next set of goals, with an expected completion date of 2030, they should ensure that fiscal transparency and participation are at their heart. In this context, Nepal's decline is particularly troubling.
"Transparency along with opportunities for public participation in budgeting can maximise the positive outcomes associated with open budgeting," Dahal said. "Such opportunities should be provided throughout the budget cycle by the executive, legislature and supreme audit institutions."
The commitment of governments — accompanied by other favourable factors like donor interventions, international standards and civil society pressures — can yield significant and rapid improvements in budget transparency.
The Open Budget Survey 2012 also revealed that 77 of the 100 countries assessed that are home to half the world’s population fail to meet basic standards of transparency.
New Zealand, South Africa, UK, Sweden, India, France and Norway are the high scorers for the 2012 edition while Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Fiji, and China are the least transparent.

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