There is wide international support for the idea that transparent budgeting is a good thing. Several methodologies developed by donors and thinks tanks are in wide use to assess the state of budget transparency at the international, regional, and national levels. Yet spending that affects the daily lives of citizens is very often done by local governments. This has prompted interest, among donors and NGO’s in the transparency and effectiveness of subnational budget practices.

The International Budget Partnership (IBP) responded by developing a pilot assessment methodology for subnational budget transparency based on its global Open Budget Index approach. IBP partner organizations in Brazil, Indonesia, and Tanzania have implemented the pilot methodology. Issues surrounding subnational budget transparency that the pilot assessments may help resolve include questions such as: How transparent is local budgeting? Does budget transparency matter to service delivery or development outcomes? What are the main gaps seen from the pilot assessments?

As part of its series of seminars, roundtables and discussions around Frontiers in Development Theory and Practice, the Urban Institute's Center on International Development and Governance -together with the International Budget Partnership- hosted a presentation and discussion on May 9, 2013, to assess the initial findings of three case studies on subnational budget transparency in Brazil, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

As part of the presentation, Vivek Ramkumar (Director of International Advocacy for the Open Budget Initiative) presented the context for IBP's subnational budget transparency efforts. Next, Andrew Lawson (Technical Director of Fiscus, UK) provided an overview of the survey methodology and share the overall results from surveys in Tanzania, Indonesia and Brazil. Lukman Hakim (Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency, FITRA) and Florian Schweitzer (Sikika, Tanzania) presented the subnational budget transparency survey results for their respective countries and discussed the implications of these results. Subsequent to the presentations, a discussion was moderated by Charles Cadwell, Director of The Urban Institute’s Center for International Development and Governance. Jamie Boex (Senior Research Associate, UI) started off the discussion with opening remarks.

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