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The Political Economy of Fiscal Transparency, Participation, and Accountability Around the World

Khagram, S., de Renzio, P., and Fung, A. (2013).
Overview and synthesis : The political economy of fiscal transparency, participation, and accountability around the world. In S. Khagram, A. Fung, de Renzio, P. (Eds.), Open Budgets : The Political Economy of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability (pp. 1-50).
Washington, DC : Brookings Institution Press
Brookings Institution Press

The Political Economy of Fiscal Transparency, Participation, and Accountability Around the World

Khagram, S., de Renzio, P., and Fung, A. (2013).
Overview and synthesis : The political economy of fiscal transparency, participation, and accountability around the world. In S. Khagram, A. Fung, de Renzio, P. (Eds.), Open Budgets : The Political Economy of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability (pp. 1-50).
Washington, DC : Brookings Institution Press
Brookings Institution Press

This chapter brings together evidence from quantitative data and in-depth qualitative case studies. It finds that four main factors affect fiscal transparency, participation, and accountability across countries :

1) processes of political regime change and increasing political competition,

2) fiscal and economic crises,

3) corruption scandals and the media, and

4) external (international, global, regional, and transnational) influences. However, the evidence for the positive impacts of transparency on accountability and responsiveness remains limited.

The analysis is based on quantitative data from the Open Budget Index (OBI) as well as a set of case studies looking at how budget transparency had evolved over time in varied country contexts. The key findings are that :

Four main factors stand out as contributing to improvements in fiscal transparency and participation in different countries. These are :

a) processes of political transition toward more democratic forms of political contestation and alternation ;

b) fiscal and economic crises that force governments to put in place enhanced mechanisms for fiscal discipline and independent scrutiny ;

c) widely publicised cases of corruption that give reformers political space to introduce reforms that improve public access to fiscal information ; and

d) external influences that promote global norms that empower domestic reformers and civil society actors.

The four factors above often interact in complex combinations to shape the trajectories in different countries by fostering or impeding advances in fiscal transparency and participation. Brazil and South Korea, for example, have developed institutional mechanisms and capacities that guarantee not only that a large amount of fiscal information is disclosed to the public but also that opportunities exist for different actors to engage with the budget process at various levels of government. In countries like South Africa, Mexico, and Kenya, trajectories have been more contradictory and outcomes more limited. While all of these countries have seen some improvement in their level of fiscal transparency, corresponding increases in active participation and oversight have not fully materialised. Finally in countries like Vietnam and China, where the autocratic nature of the political regime is not favourable to fiscal transparency and participation, improvements have been much slower and more gradual.
There is more limited evidence of how greater public availability of fiscal information — and related opportunities to engage with the budget process — may affect government accountability, broader public finance management, and quality of service delivery. There are various examples of legislators becoming more demanding regarding the executive, and of civil society campaigns achieving significant but isolated success. However, the evidence for the positive impacts of transparency on accountability and responsiveness remains far from systematic or definitive.
Lessons and implications for policymakers :

Punctuated and often large advances can be achieved during windows of opportunity that are triggered by major political changes (transitions to democracy, campaigns and elections, and alternations of parties in power), fiscal crises, and corruption scandals.
The opportunities for much greater collaboration among government reformers, civil society advocates, international agencies, and even the private sector to promote change have never been greater. For example, more and more governments are motivated to signal to public and private actors that they are worthy of increased foreign direct investment and aid because transparency constitutes a component of their sound public financial management systems.

The guidance being provided to governments about appropriate practices is not as effective as it might be, given the existence of multiple codes and assessments. At the same time, gaps in critical areas still exist, such as standards on legislative oversight or public participation. Further development of a more coherent global architecture of norms (principles, standards, and assessments) will directly and indirectly contribute to improvements in fiscal transparency, participation, and accountability.
Strengthening the capacity of oversight actors is essential in increasing the use of budget information.

Publié le 2 juin 2013

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