India has been placed at 53rd position among 117 nations in terms of budget transparency and accountability, according to the Open Budget Survey released on Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by International Budget Partnership (IBP), has provided India's Union Budget process a transparency score of 49 out of 100, which is higher than the global average of 45.
New Zealand tops the chart with a score 87.
Some of the other large developing countries, with the exception of China, have got much higher transparency scores compared to India.
South Africa (87), Mexico (82) and Brazil (81) are among the top six countries providing extensive information to public for scrutiny.
"If one compares India's performance in this global biennial survey, there is stagnation over the last few years. In the survey for 2019, India ranks 53rd among the 117 countries covered,” said a press release on the survey.
India performs well in publishing timely and relevant information in the audit reports and in-year reports and has scored well and above many other countries, it added.
However, the survey observed that absence of a published Pre-Budget Statement and not bringing out a Mid-Year Review in 2018-19 pulled down the transparency score for the Union Budget of India.
Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), which contributed research inputs towards developing an assessment of budget transparency for the efforts by the Union Government, noted that IBP draws attention to the importance of enhancing budget transparency and strengthening accountability for government budgets.
The survey, covering 117 countries, rates the level of budget transparency across countries on a scale of 0-100, based on several normative, internationally comparable indicators.
It evaluates for each country, the availability of eight key budget documents of the Central or Federal Government, and assesses whether these are made public, in a timely manner, and provide comprehensive information.
Providing adequate space for public participation for priority setting in its budgets is also flagged by the OBS (Open Budget Survey) as an area of improvement required for India.
The survey report argues that the Union Government should also publish a Pre-Budget Statement, which can be scrutinised by the legislators and the public at large before the annual budget is presented.
The CBGA said budget transparency is always an important parameter of fiscal governance.
"But it assumes greater significance during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic as a sizable chunk of public expenditure is likely to get financed by higher magnitudes of government borrowing not just in the current fiscal but in the subsequent couple of years too," it said.
In order to ensure that the hard earned public resources are used judiciously and accountably, a high degree of transparency needs to be maintained with government finances, it said.
A recent study by the CBGA had highlighted the major obstructions in budget transparency at the district level and suggested a number of reforms.
Creating an integrated budget and expenditure information architecture at every district headquarter and enabling the District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee to use this information to enforce accountability of the executive for budget implementation, will substantially improve budget transparency and accountability at the district level in the country.
The Open Budget Survey is part of the International Budget Partnership's Open Budget Initiative, a global research and advocacy program to promote public access to budget information and the adoption of accountable budget systems.