Fabled Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." If that is in fact the case, then the world as a whole is a pretty grimy place, according to the latest edition of the Open Budget Survey.
The biennial report, published by the International Budget Partnership, tracks government spending transparency across the globe. Of the 100 countries assessed in the survey, 77 "fail to meet basic standards of budget transparency," with the average score a lowly 43 out of 100 points.
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE WORLD'S TEN MOST OPEN COUNTRIES.
“Transparency is one of our most powerful weapons against corruption, waste and bad governance, providing the basis on which people can hold their politicians to account and demand change where change is needed,” said UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening.
Since day one, "transparency" has been a buzzword of Barack Obama's presidency; in a memo addressed to the heads of government departments that first day, the president wrote that all government agencies should work "to usher in a new era of open Government."
But recently, the Obama administration has been criticized for a distinct lack of transparency in a number of avenues, most specifically the opacity of its drone program, and the failure of 19 of 20 cabinet-level agencies to properly disclose information according to laws set forth by the Freedom of Information Act.
But to the White House's credit, the U.S. comes in seventh in the Open Budget Survey's rankings. As the Washington Post's Wonkblog explains, "overall, the document is a pretty strong vote of confidence in the federal government’s transparency efforts."
The Wonkblog goes on to say that the U.S. gets knocked down for its lack of a pre-budget statement, lack of details in reviews of prior expenditures and, most importantly, a total lack of a "citizens budget," which the IBP explains as being "accessible, nontechnical presentations of budget information."
The U.S. and its neighbors scored well overall, as the Guardian explains, with western Europe and the U.S. averaging 75 out of 100 points, while the Middle East and North Africa managed to average just 18 out of 100 points. In a race to the bottom, Qatar, Myanmar and Equatorial Guinea rank dead last.
The IBP gathers its data through a series of 125 questions answered by independent researchers in 100 countries, which account for a population of 6.1 billion, or 89 percent of the world's population in 2010. And while the survey paints a rather dismal portrait of government transparency in general, IBP states that the study has seen "steady, albeit incremental, progress over the four rounds of the survey since 2006," with the average score of 40 countries with comparable data sets jumping from 47 out of 100 when the survey began up to 57 out of 100 in 2012.
So which countries have the most open governments? Check out the top 10 list below:
No. 10 (tie): Slovenia
A crowd walks in the centre of Ljubljana during year-end festivities and celebrations for the upcoming new year on December 27, 2012. (Jure Makovec/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 10 (tie): Russia
A car passes next to the illuminated Red Square in Moscow, 21 December 2005. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 9: Czech Republic
Tourists enjoy a sunny day on March 25, 2010 at the traditional Eastern market in the Old Town Square in Prague. (MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 8: South Korea
A picture show a night view of Seoul as seen from the N Seoul Tower on the top of Nam mountain in Seoul on February 22, 2010. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 7: The United States
A cherry tree is in full bloom in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
No. 6: France
People enjoy the sunny spring weather on April 7, 2011 near the Eiffel tower in Paris. (FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 5: Norway
Tourists coming back from the Hovedoya island in the Oslo fjord protect themselves from a rain shower as they disembark from a ferry in Oslo at sunset, on August 24, 2012. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/GettyImages)
No. 4: Sweden
Stockholm is seen in the background as a couple relax on a park bench on November 1, 2011 in the Djurgaarden park in the city. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
No. 3: United Kingdom
The sun sets behind the Houses of Parliament viewed from the south bank of the river Thames on December 5, 2010 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
No. 2 South Africa
A general view of central Cape Town ahead of the 2010 FIFA world Cup, on October 22, 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
No. 1: New Zealand
Captain Richie McCaw of the All Blacks lifts the Webb Ellis Cup after an 8-7 victory in during the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup Final match between France and New Zealand at Eden Park on October 23, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)