Budget Watch Kerala– a budget accountability and advocacy initiative – promoted by the Institute for Sustainable Development and Governance (ISDG) and Social Accountability and Budget Analysis Network (SABAN) is an effort in bringing the budget closer to the people, to enhance the understanding of the layman about the intricacies of the local and state government budgets of Kerala.

ISDG which became operational in 2012 is the governance and development programme of the Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS), Pune. ISDG focuses on policy research and capacity development and seeks to strengthen democratic governance, sustainable human development and inclusive participation of people in all spheres of governance. ISDG invests its efforts in three specific areas:

a) Participatory Urban Governance with a focus on urban poverty, budget transparency and accountability and people_s participation;

b) Policy and Budget Analysis and Advocacy and Social Watch of governance institutions; and

c) Youth and Women’s empowerment.

Though in the first year, ISDG focused most of the work in Kerala, ISDG is expected to grow as a national level strategic resource centre with a specific focus on advocacy, research and capacity development in the area of urban governance and poverty, as well as the initiatives for youth and women’s empowerment.

ISDG functions as the secretariat of SABAN which is a network of civil society organisations, researchers, activists and media persons across Kerala to promote and advocate transparency and accountability in governance with particular reference to the budgetary process. The objective of the network is to facilitate research & documentation and media advocacy.

ISDG is also part of the national level network of state budget groups called Peoples Budget Initiative under Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), New Delhi (http://www.cbgaindia.org/).

De-Mystifying the Budget

To the public, the annual state budget presentation is a ritual that occurs on the last day of the second week of March when the Hon. Finance Minister makes a speech a few hours long. The arguments concerning whether the Budget was a surplus or a deficit does not stay long with the people. When the Finance Minister presents the fiscal deficit and the revenue deficit favourably, the Opposition attacks the incumbent government vehemently using the same numbers. When the Finance Minister makes a statement that it’s all right even if the public debt is increasing, the Opposition locks horns stating the per capita debt. While the Finance Minister royally claims that it is a ‘people’s budget’, the Opposition calls it anti-people. The financial experts and economists play their roles in the visual media by using jargons like fiscal deficit, revenue deficit, primary deficit and per capita debt on the day of the budget presentation. The next day while pro-government media praise the budget, opposition media lambast it. With this, all the hullaballoo surrounding the annual budget comes to an end. The same process repeats itself in the following year. This is what the budget is for the people.


But what is the budget? It is a comprehensive policy document consisting of schemes and programs that affect the daily lives of the people of the state and also the economy. It is an essential document containing information of all development programs in a year. It also determines the annual plan of the state and development programs of local governments. The budget includes a pathway towards resource mobilisation for implementing these developmental programs.


In this way, Kerala Budget Watch is a humble effort in bringing this vital policy document to the people in a simple language. Each finance minister and the government in power has a responsibility of implementing all the programs mentioned in the budget. The government is not held accountable for failing to carry out the promises made by them. The government will be held responsible only if the public raises questions regarding unfulfilled budget promises. In this way, we hope to be the voice of the people.


If we can bring the budget closer to the people, if we can make the people think about the budget, and if we can function as a catalyst in the people convincing the government to implement budget proposals, we would consider this humble endeavour a success.


This is only a small beginning. We will be bringing in analysis and explanations. For more details, criticisms, feedback about the Kerala Budget, watch this space!



Kerala Budget Watch Team