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Vietnam scores low in budget transparency survey

Friday, September 11, 2015, 17:01 GMT+7

The Vietnamese government does not make much information on the national coffers available to the public, while the country’s legislature and auditor have adequate oversight of the budget use, a survey reveals.

The Southeast Asian country scored 18 out of 100 in the Open Budget Index (OBI), much lower than the global average of 45, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) said Wednesday, citing findings from its fifth biannual 2015 Open Budget Survey.

The OBI assesses the scale of information citizens of a country can access to enable them to monitor the government’s use of public money, according to the IBP, an international nonprofit research and training institute based in the U.S.

A score of 18 means the Vietnamese government only provides the public with scant budget information.

The IBP surveyed 102 countries and territories to prepare the report, and found out that only 24 of them scored over 60 out of 100 points.

“Alarmingly, the remaining 78 countries that provide insufficient budget information are home to 68 percent of the world’s population,” it said in the report.

Vietnam’s OBI score is higher than that of China (14), Cambodia (8) and Myanmar (2), but way lower than other Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines (64), Indonesia (59), Malaysia (46) and Thailand (42).

The Open Budget Survey is “the world’s only independent, comparative survey of budget transparency, citizen participation, and independent oversight institutions in the budgeting process,” according to the IBP.

The budget oversight of Vietnam’s legislature and auditor scored 61 and 75 out of 100, respectively, which means the supervision by both the legislative body and the supreme audit institution is adequate, according to the report.

In the last pillar of accountability, public participation, Vietnam only scored 42 out of 100, which indicates that the government “provides the public with limited opportunities to engage in the budget process.”

The score is still higher than the global average of 25, and better than those of regional countries such as China (6), Malaysia (12) and Indonesia (35).

The IBP also suggested solutions for improving Vietnam’s budget transparency, public participation and oversight.

The proposed actions to take include publishing a budget proposal when the draft budget is presented to the National Assembly, holding legislative hearings on the budgets of specific ministries, departments, and agencies at which testimony from the public is heard, and establishing a specialized budget research office for the legislature.

Brazil, Norway, South Africa, and the United States are the only four out of the countries surveyed to provide sufficient budget transparency, create sufficient opportunities for public participation, and have strong legislatures and supreme audit institutions, according to the report.

In contrast, the survey finds that 32 countries are insufficient on all three pillars of accountability. These include a number of countries that have consistently provided scant or no budget information at all: Algeria, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Iraq, Myanmar, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

The IBP collaborates with nonprofit organizations around the world to ensure that government budgets are more responsive to the needs of poor and low-income people in society and, accordingly, to make budget systems more transparent and accountable to the public.

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