Improving Governance Through Budget Transparency

A secondary result of the fiscal crises now spooling out in the United States and Europe will be greater scrutiny of the efficacy of public expenditures. Nowhere is this likely to have greater impact than in foreign aid and development assistance, as countries demand greater accountability for each dollar or euro spent. At the same time, citizens in many countries receiving assistance are also pressuring their governments for accountability.
Critical to both of these developments is the focus on public budgets. Whatever elected leaders say, when the last votes are cast and counted the critical question is how governments actually manage their funds to address problems of poverty, provide essential services such as education and health care, and make public investments to secure their future. The flip side of the question is how and in whose interest countries raise funds to fulfill their commitments. Do they use revenues raised from oil, gas, mining and other natural resource extractions for high national priorities? Or are these funds siphoned off for private enrichment? Do they make prudent use of development assistance from abroad?
Historically the purview of accountants and numbers-crunchers, public officials in the past showed little interest in making budgets more accessible. Nonetheless, citizen groups around the world have increasingly demanded access to budget information.