Analyzing Budget Proposals

Since the budget cycle has many stages, effective budget work requires analysis and activities that continue throughout the year. In this context, a thorough and broad assessment of the budget when it is released by the executive can help groups identify particularly important areas that might require more work later in the budget cycle.

A comprehensive analysis of the proposed budget will include examining the fiscal and economic assumptions on which the proposal is based, as well as assessing how the budget’s proposed revenue and expenditure provisions align with the government’s stated policy goals and the needs and priorities of the public. This involves analyzing whether the estimates of revenue and expenditure are reasonable and accurate, how funds will be spread across the main economic sectors, and how proposed tax and spending policies will affect the poor and most vulnerable. Other questions to be answered at this stage are how the budget is expected to affect the government’s annual deficit and national debt, as well as such economic outcomes as inflation, growth, and employment.

Civil society analysis of budget proposals and participation in consideration process not only provides evidence and opportunities to effectively advocate for their issues and constituencies it also can help build the capacity of legislatures to analyze budgets and improve the quality of budget hearings and reports. By analyzing the executive’s budget proposal, civil society organizations can:

  • Support legislative review of the proposal by providing independent analysis
  • Establish themselves as a source of valuable information
  • Identify questionable assumptions and potential problems in the proposal
  • Generate evidence that can support advocacy
  • Support the ability of the public to participate in the debate by providing useful and accessible information

Useful Guides and Publications

A Guide to Budget Work for NGOs

edited by Isaac ShapiroThis guide from the International Budget Partnership draws on the experiences of CSOs engaging in applied budget work to provide a systematic overview of the different aspects of effective budget analysis, with an emphasis on the activities and approaches CSOs might want to undertake in their initial years of budget work.

A Guide to Tax Work for NGOs

by Joel FriedmanThis guide from the International Budget Partnership is intended to help demystify revenue policy issues and give civil society budget groups the tools they need to influence revenue policy in the same way that they have been able to influence expenditure policy.

Primer on Civil Society Budget Work

by Siba Shankar Mohanty, Deepak L. Xavier, and Pooja ParvatiThis publication from the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability in India provides information and techniques for understanding and assessing provisions and public finance issues for civil society institutions engaged in budget work and advocacy.

Model Reports