October 2018 | by Jason Lakin, Ph.D., International Budget Partnership
At the core of government budgets are choices. The push for greater transparency and public engagement in budgeting is at least partly about bringing the public into these choices and ensuring that these choices are governed democratically. Choices in turn are ultimately about reasons. Sometimes governments may have good reasons to deviate from their budgets, especially when macroeconomic shocks disrupt plans, or government managers realize that there are better and more efficient ways to provide services.
Reasons that inform public policy must have certain qualities that make them intelligible to others. This paper, part of the International Budget Partnership’s Assessing Budget Credibility project, offers a set of criteria for judging both retrospective and prospective reasons governments give for budget choices and deviations in public budget documents.