FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Malaysian government fails to provide citizens with comprehensive information about how it spends their money
Independent global report reveals how Malaysia could improve transparency quickly with little cost or effort
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, October 20, 2010 – The International Budget Partnership today released the Open Budget Survey 2010, 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 Malaysia earned a transparency score of 39 points out of 100. The lack of transparency and accountability in Malaysia’s budget opens the door to abuse and inappropriate and inefficient use of public money.
“We urge the government of Malaysia to take immediate steps to make its budget process more open,” said Khairiah Makata, Senior Research Analyst of Centre for Public Policy Studies, which worked on the report. “As the Open Budget Survey recommends, the government of Malaysia can improve transparency and accountability quickly and with very little cost or effort by publishing online all of the budget information it already produces and by inviting public participation in the budget process.”
“Greater transparency would contribute to better oversight, better access to credit, better policy choices, and better service delivery for Malaysia and, ultimately, its people,” said Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership. Krafchik cited Nigeria as an example of how a lack of budget transparency allows corruption and mismanagement to go unchecked. He noted Mexico as a case in which access to budget information ensured that poor farmers received subsidies intended for them that previously were diverted to wealthy farmers.
Malaysia is not alone in its poor performance. The Open Budget Survey 2010 reveals that 74 of the 94 countries assessed fail to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability with national budgets. Based on documented evidence, the Open Budget Survey 2010 finds that just seven of 94 countries assessed release extensive budget information, and 40 countries release no meaningful budget information. Without this information, it is difficult for the public and oversight institutions to hold government accountable or to have meaningful input into decisions about how to use public resources. South Africa, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United States score in the top tier of transparency, while the worst performers include China, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, and newly democratic Iraq, which provide little to no information to their citizens.
The Open Budget Survey uses internationally recognized criteria to give each country a transparency score on a 100-point scale called the Open Budget Index. Despite the general lack of budget transparency around the world, the Open Budget Survey 2010 revealed a nine-point average improvement among the 40 countries that have been measured over three consecutive Open Budget Surveys. Some of the most dramatic improvements came from previously low-scoring countries, such as Mongolia and Liberia, which still do not meet best practices but have improved significantly over time.
“The good news is that all governments — no matter their income levels or political systems or dependence on aid — can improve transparency and accountability quickly and with very little additional cost or effort by publishing online all of the budget information they already produce and by inviting public participation in the budget process,” said Krafchik. “In the long term, we would like to see the international community establish a set of global norms for budget transparency. Such norms could codify broadly accepted principles and guidelines with respect to transparency and would provide civil society organizations, the media, and legislatures a powerful tool to leverage improvements within countries.”