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Serbia has fallen on the list of the Open Budget Index

In the Open Budget Index (OBI) international survey, Serbia fell by eight places and ranks 70th out of 117 countries.

Transparency Serbia announced today that Serbia was rated 40 points in the 2019 survey, out of a maximum of 100. That rating is five points lower than the world average and three points lower than the 2017 budget transparency survey when Serbia scored 43 and was ranked 62nd on the list. As a result of the decline, we are now classified in the group of countries with "minimal budget transparency".

Of the countries in the region that were rated, only Bosnia and Herzegovina has a worse score (33), Northern Macedonia is slightly better (41). At the same time, Bulgaria is ranked best with a score of 71. Croatia and Slovenia have a score of 68, Romania 64, Albania 55 and Hungary 45.

Serbia is by far the worst rated in terms of public participation in budgeting, with only 2 points (world average 14), and ratings for Serbia are above the world average only in the category of audit supervision (57), although this rating is in the range of "limited openness budget ".

"Significant level of budget transparency" this year has reached 31 countries, with a score of 61 and more, and only six of them have more than 80 points. At the top of the list are New Zealand and South Africa (87) and Sweden (86). On the other hand, three countries have a score of 0 (zero) - Yemen, Venezuela and Comoros, while Qatar has a score of 1, and Sudan and Algeria 2 each.

Serbia's assessment could have been better if the Government and the Assembly had respected their legal obligations and deadlines from the budget calendar when preparing the budget for 2019 and considering the final account. The fact that there has been an improvement in the 2020 budget preparation and that the Assembly has recently adopted the final accounts of the budget indicates that, if this becomes a permanent practice, it will improve the results in the following research cycles.

For Serbia to increase budget openness, in addition to respecting the budget calendar, it is also necessary for the government to start preparing a semi-annual report on budget execution in accordance with international standards, and for the Serbian Parliament to more actively monitor budget execution, the impact of new laws on public finances, the implementation of SAI recommendations and to discuss the Fiscal Strategy and analyses of the Fiscal Council.

Transparency per se is not enough to improve budget management; the involvement of the interested public in the various stages of the budget process is crucial. When it comes to the central level, these mechanisms almost do not exist, so Serbia has a score of 2 in that research segment (the world average is 14, and neighbouring Bulgaria has 26).

In the current global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, budget transparency has become even more critical - it is a necessary condition for trust between government and citizens. Therefore, it is necessary to publish all decisions on extraordinary expenditures – which is currently not the case in Serbia, and that the government provides a reasonable explanation for the proposed measures – which was missing in the case of the announced distribution of 100 euros to adult citizens. It is also necessary to have data on the implementation of measures publicly available.

The Budget Openness Survey is the only globally independent, comparative and evidence-based research instrument that uses internationally accepted criteria to assess public access to budget information, real opportunities for the public to participate in budget preparation, and the role of budget oversight institutions such as the National Assembly, the State Audit Institution and the Fiscal Council are in Serbia.

The Washington-based International Budget Partnership (IBP) established the methodology and conducted the 2006 budget openness survey for the first time. The goal is for citizens worldwide to better understand budget processes and gain the opportunity to influence how public funds will be collected and spent. In cooperation with the IBP, the survey is conducted every other year by organisations independent of the government (in Serbia, it is Transparency Serbia). Two independent experts verify these findings, and government representatives are given the opportunity to point out any omissions, after which the final results are compiled.