Improving, But Can Do Better

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Malaysia’s score has been gradually improving over time, from 35 in 2008 to 39 in 2010 and 2012, and up 7 points this year.Malaysia’s score has been gradually improving over time, from 35 in 2008 to 39 in 2010 and 2012, and up 7 points this year.Malaysia’s score has been gradually improving over time, from 35 in 2008 to 39 in 2010 and 2012, and up 7 points this year.

The World Bank recently held its global launch of the Open Budget Survey 2015, produced by one of its open budget partners, the International Budget Partnership (IBP). The survey saw the ranking of 102 countries worldwide based on the degree of their respective governments’ budget transparency, public participation and oversight. As one of the participating nations in this survey, Malaysia has moved into the top half of the survey, achieving a score of 46 out of 100 on the overall Open Budget Index. This is slightly above the global average of 45, tying with likes of India and the Ukraine, and ahead of Thailand, Vietnam and China.

Malaysia’s score has been gradually improving over time, from 35 in 2008 to 39 in 2010 and 2012, and up 7 points this year. Much of that improved score this year comes from the strengthened oversight by the Auditor General’s office and thrice-yearly publication of the post-budget AG’s reports.

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Tricia-Yeoh-COOIn Malaysia, the local researcher for this year’s survey was the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) think-tank, which also launched the country report on the global launch date at the Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur. During her opening remarks at the launch, IDEAS COO Tricia Yeoh (pic) highlighted the importance of budget transparency in determining the country’s fiscal and economic health.

“We, the policy geeks and wonks in civil society and government activism, undertake to study the budget documents because we know that the budget is not only a roadmap and a set of accounts, but also a document of risk assessment, because it can be a red flag, telling you how risky our financial situation is. But this is true only if budgets are transparent.

In a way, it’s also a manifesto, because it tells you the social and economic priorities of the elected government. The more open budgets are, the more empowering they can be, enabling the people to confirm whether or not our government officials are good stewards of the public’s funds.”

Yeoh also pointed out that increased budget transparency can help boost public confidence that governments are not engaging in corruption or other such practices, saying that while the survey does not look at state or local government budgets (only the national ones), they too could benefit from applying the same principles.

Expositing the Open Budget Survey results for Malaysia was Sri Murniati, IDEAS Manager of the Political Economy and Governance Unit and country researcher for the survey, who pointed out that while the Westminster system of government did not have as strong a legislative oversight system as the Republican system of government (Malaysia scored 15 out of 100, compared to a global average score of 48), there were still ways in which the country can strengthen its score (the UK, for instance, scored 45/100) in this regard.

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WP_20150910_14_54_04_ProFollowing the launch, a panel discussion involving Sri Murniati as moderator also featured Cynthia Gabriel, founder of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4); Teh Chi-Chang, author of UMNO-Nomics: The Dark Side of the Budget; and Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara.

During the discussion, Pua said that Malaysia’s budget is not currently a needs-based budget, instead using the traditional historic budgeting system, and recommended switching to a system that focused on expenditure based on requirements rather than projected revenues.

To read the Country Summary for Malaysia, including specific recommendations on how its score can be improved in future surveys, click here. For more details, click here for the completed questionnaire on Malaysia.

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