RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has made a marked improvement in terms of budget transparency and accountability, according to the Open Budget Index survey released on Wednesday.
According to the survey, conducted by International Budget Partnership (IBP), an international non-profit organization concerned with evaluating disclosure and transparency of general budgets worldwide, Saudi Arabia has advanced 18 ranks compared to the previous survey, after scoring 18 points compared to one point in the previous survey conducted in 2017.
The results of the survey reflected recent efforts exerted by the Saudi government to enhance transparency and disclosure in public finance.
Commenting on the result of the survey, Dr. Saad Alshahrani, deputy minister for macro-fiscal policies at the Ministry of Finance, highlighted the importance of this achievement that the Kingdom managed to realize within a short period of time and confirmed that with this progress, we aspire in the future to achieve a higher ranking that reflects efforts made in the framework of improving the quality of fiscal data and enhancing the level of transparency and disclosure thereof, which is one of the important tracks pursued by the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in line with the Kingdom's Vision2030.
The Ministry of Finance has sought to develop its fiscal systems, providing the greatest possible amount of information about its fiscal policy, disclosing its fiscal and economic data and publishing relevant periodic reports to inform specialists, analysts and citizens in a timely manner. This has also allowed the private sector and investors to plan ahead and make informed decisions.
Dr. Alshahrani said that the budget forum held annually by the ministry is an effective way to enhance communication and an important channel for identifying the best ways to develop the budget preparation process.
He also said that this forum underscores the importance of partnership between different government agencies to share challenges in preparing the budget and mechanisms to achieve the goals.
The forum is considered a successful initiative to inform the public finance stakeholders on the various projects of the finance ministry and related programs, and to provide training opportunities following the highest international standards.
The deputy minister added that the jump in the Kingdom’s score was the result of several concrete measures taken to enhance transparency. Since the launch of the Kingdom's Vision2030, the ministry has released many reports and has continuously developed its content on an annual basis according to best practices. The reports address a broad base of specialized recipients and the general public inside and outside the Kingdom.
In 2017, the ministry issued the first detailed budget statement, quarterly (periodic) reports for the budget performance, the citizen’s budget, in addition to the publication of its medium-term fiscal framework. During the past two years, the ministry began periodically publishing the pre-budget statement and year-end report on its website.
Dr. Alshahrani explained that transparency is one of the important aspects of concern to international financial and investment institutions, impacting their investment decisions and is usually reflected in their reports.
He added that, in the past year, the Kingdom’s government joined the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) adopted by the International Monetary Fund, as well as implemented the Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) initiative on the national data page, making the Kingdom the first among the G20 countries adopting SDDS and to apply SDMX.
The general government coverage was also introduced in the presentation of fiscal data for the first time in the past year. Also, the National Fiscal and Economic Data Page was created on the website of the Ministry of Finance with the participation of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority and the General Authority for Statistics.
All of these measures contributed to a material and unprecedented shift in the levels of disclosure and transparency in the Kingdom, leading to an enhanced position on various international indicators and contributing to supporting domestic and foreign investment, as well as the credit rating of the Kingdom.
The Open Budget Index (OBI) is an important global tool, independently prepared every two years to assess the transparency of government budgets around the world. Countries covered by the open budget survey are ranked according to their scores in the survey.