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Demystifying the budget: MP, Gujarat score highest
Thu, 24 Feb 2011 23:10:51 GMT
In the national capital Delhi, and in 28 state capitals across the country, hundreds of government employees, officials and ministers have been burning the midnight oil to prepare the central and state governments' budgets.

Governments are big spenders in 2009-10, the combined expenditure at central and state levels was Rs 17.88 lakh crore. Of this, state and Union territory governments spent over 61% about Rs 10.83 lakh crore. The aam admi has practically no idea of how the governments earn and spend these sums. Do the governments try to make the budget process transparent and understandable to lay people?

A study carried out by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), a New Delhi-based think tank, analysed the budget-making processes of 10 state governments to find out. The results show that on a scale of 0 to 100, the state governments of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat scored the most, while Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan were the laggards.

How did the researchers translate a complex process into simple scores? CBGA led a team of NGOs from the 10 states in a detailed study of the budget-formulating process of each state by meeting officials and legislators, as also studying all budget-related documents. A checklist of eight parameters was used to give scores. These were: availability of budget documents, completeness of information, facilitating its understanding, timeliness, audit and performance assessment, scope for legislative scrutiny, budgeting for disadvantaged sections and fiscal decentralization.

The results show that most of the studied states score well in making available budget-related documents and in completeness of information. However, on other parameters wide divergence was observed. Most states had low scores on practices relating to fiscal decentralization the average was just 23%, with Assam scoring the maximum (31%) and MP scoring the least (14%).

On the issue of availability of budget documents, most states had high scores with Gujarat getting 87% and Rajasthan 80%. Even the least scoring state, UP, had 64%. On completeness of information, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra had high scores while Rajasthan fell behind with the lowest score of 56%.

How much effort do the state governments make in helping common people understand the budget documents? Rajasthan and Maharashtra put out easy to understand documents which included discussion and comments. So they got about 70% on this count. MP and Chhattisgarh scored less than 40% on this parameter.

Surprisingly, most states had below-par scores on audit and performance review. Only MP with a score of 67%, followed by Chhattisgarh (55%), had respectable scores. Jharkhand had the lowest score at 23%. This parameter reviewed timely audit of accounts, performance reviews including five-year Plan reviews and publication of these documents.

The widest difference was observed in practices relating to budgeting for disadvantaged sections like SC/ST and women. While Chhattisgarh and MP, with the most elaborate documentation of allocation and expenditure on disadvantaged sections, scored about 70% each, Maharashtra and Rajasthan brought up the rear with just about 30%.
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