Malaysia scored a dismal 35 points out of 100 in the Open Budget Index (OBI) 2008 and was ranked 53rd out of 85 countries.
Malaysia fell in the category of “minimal information” on Budget information provided by the Government.
Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam said he was surprised and embarrassed to find out that the Budget was not as transparent as it should be.
“I urge the Government to make the Budget more transparent,” he said adding that information should trickle down to the grassroots especially those in rural areas.
On that note, he said there was a general feeling that people did not know much about the first stimulus package, and the Government should provide more information such as which states and areas were getting the funds and who were getting them.
He said foreign investors were also interested because the information would reveal any risk factors in doing business.
Ramon pointed out that there were two main documents that lacked public accessibility in Malaysia – the Citizens Budget (a simplified version of the enacted Budget) and the mid-year review on revenues and expenditure.
He said he would bring the matter up with Treasury officials and consult the NGO that carried out the OBI Index (the Washington-based International Budget Partnership) as well countries that were doing well on ways to improve the Malaysian index.
According to the report, the minimal information provided by the Government made it quite difficult for citizens to hold the Government accountable for its management of the public’s money.
The Budget information used was based on information in 2007 and in providing information, Governments were categorised as: extensive, significant, some, minimal or no information.
Britain, South Africa, France, New Zealand and the United States ranked the highest in the OBI and these governments provided extensive information.
Surprisingly, Malaysia fell behind Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
It was found that 80% of the world’s governments failed to provide adequate information to the public.
The key documents that should be made accessible to the public are the pre-Budget statement, Executive’s budget proposal, Citizen’s Budget, In-year Reports, Mid-year Review, Year-end Report and Audit Report.
The survey was carried out for the second time and Malaysia participated for the first time.
Malaysia fares badly in Budget transparency