Understanding budgetary priorities

Mohamed Youssef
Thursday 13 Jun 2024

Egypt’s score on the 2023 Open Budget Survey shows commendable progress as well as areas for improvement.


On 29 May, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) launched its latest Open Budget Survey (OBS) report covering 125 countries including Egypt.

The OBS is the world’s only independent, comparative, and fact-based research instrument that evaluates budgetary transparency, public participation, and oversight at the central government level. Now in its ninth edition, the OBS 2023 report shines a spotlight on the pivotal role of budgetary processes in communicating government priorities and fostering public trust.

In Egypt, the survey was administered by Dcode Economic and Financial Consulting (Dcode EFC) and reviewed by the Ministry of Finance to ensure the objectivity and credibility of the results.

The government budget transcends mere fiscal matters as it also reflects the values and priorities of the nation. By outlining how money is raised and spent, the budget is a crucial vehicle for decision-making and public communication about economic and social objectives. Involving the public in the budgetary process is not only a democratic necessity but also a safeguard against wasteful spending and potential social unrest.

For Egypt, the OBS 2023 report brings both commendable progress and areas for improvement. Egypt’s scores have notably improved to 49/100 in transparency, 35/100 in public participation, and 54/100 in oversight. This marks significant progress from the 2021 scores of 43/100, 19/100, and 44/100, respectively.

Transparency is essential for the public understanding of budgetary priorities. The OBS assesses transparency by evaluating public access to eight key documents and the comprehensiveness of the information provided. Although Egypt has now achieved its highest transparency score since 2012, ranking second among its regional comparators and exceeding the global average, there is still room for improvement. For instance, the mid-year review score of 30 points to areas that require attention.

Public-participation mechanisms enable citizens to contribute to budgetary priorities, fostering trust and allowing them to influence fiscal decisions. With a global average participation score of 15, Egypt’s score of 35 is almost double this, leading the region. Nevertheless, participation is still minimal during the audit phase and absent in the approval stage, highlighting the need for expanded public engagement.

Even though only a handful of countries have public-participation mechanisms across all budgetary stages, the OBS 2023 report finds that at least 83 per cent of the countries surveyed have one participation mechanism. The countries that have made the greatest improvements include Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, the Gambia, Namibia, Portugal, South Africa and Thailand. However, again, with a threshold of 61 and despite the major improvement, there are still opportunity areas untapped. Main recommendations include expanding mechanisms during budgetary formulation and implementation to engage any civil society organisation or member of the public who wishes to participate, as well as enabling them to testify during parliamentary hearings on the budget.

Budgetary oversight in Egypt remains a mixed picture. While the composite oversight score of 54/100 indicates some level of scrutiny, both legislative and audit components need strengthening. Enhancing the capacity and independence of the legislature and audit institutions will ensure more effective oversight of public spending. This includes providing sufficient time for legislative review and ensuring that audit institutions have the resources and authority to conduct thorough assessments of budgetary implementation.

The OBS 2023 report provides actionable recommendations to enhance Egypt’s budgetary processes. This year, the survey’s recommendations include expanding public-engagement mechanisms, enhancing transparency through the timely publication of key documents, and strengthening oversight by allowing enough time for the legislature to review and debate the executive’s budgetary proposals. Implementing these recommendations will not only improve Egypt’s OBS scores, but also lead to more effective and equitable public spending.

While Egypt has made significant strides in budgetary transparency and participation, more efforts are necessary to further improve these scores. Embracing the OBS recommendations will pave the way for a more transparent, participatory, and accountable budgetary process, benefiting both the government and its citizens.


The writer is chairman and CEO of Dcode EFC.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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