The power of budget analysis is that it can provide evidence to support advocacy, strengthening the ability of civil society organizations (CSOs) and the public to influence decisions on tax policies and on the allocation of resources to specific policies and programs. In addition, by testing the assumptions underlying proposals and identifying potential pitfalls, budget analysis can help turn policy ideas into desired outcomes.
Although the budget receives the most attention from policymakers, the public, and the media when the Executive’s Budget Proposal is released, it is important to engage in budget analysis and advocacy throughout the budget cycle.
Budget analysis is a tool for understanding the intent and possible impact of governments’ plans for raising and spending public resources. Public budgets can be analyzed from various perspectives:
- looking at budget trends over time
- comparing spending for one sector, like health, to its share of the overall budget or to proposed spending for another sector, like defense
- assessing how a budget addresses the needs of a particular group, such as women, children, those with disabilities, and the poor; or how it affects the overall economy
Connecting Budget Analysis with Advocacy
Although budget analysis can be an extremely important means of generating evidence that can be used to inform policy debates and strengthen oversight – ultimately improving governance and budget outcomes – achieving these requires CSOs to use that evidence in effective advocacy. Without linking the results of budget analysis to such efforts as providing input into budget debates, proposing alternative policies, informing the public and building constituencies, and holding the government accountable, CSOs are unlikely to achieve their desired impact.
CSOs engaging in budget analysis and advocacy that seeks to strengthen the government’s commitment to a particular sector or to a particular group of people must always be aware that public budgeting is about trade-offs. Government budgets allocate scarce resources among competing interests, so increases in spending on one program or service will almost always require a decision either to increase revenues (i.e., taxes, fees, etc.) or cut spending on other programs. CSOs can strengthen their chances of success if they integrate these potential trade-offs into their analyses and advocacy objectives.
It is important to note that independent budget analysis requires access to comprehensive, timely, and useful budget information. Different types of analysis have different information needs. For example, “useful” information for a gender analysis would include data that is disaggregated by sex as well as data relating to key gender issues, such as maternal mortality and violence against women. Therefore, in order to be able to use the methods presented here to engage in effective advocacy, CSOs may first need to campaign for public access to government information.
The Budget Analysis section of the IBP website is presented in two subsections: