Why Track The Budget

The national budget reflects the government’s economic and policy priorities for the country. The budget process includes four stages: planning, approval, implementation and auditing. During this process, the Ministry of Finance publishes several supporting documents, the most widely shared and followed of which is the Budget Speech delivered by the Minister of Finance to parliament in November each year.

The speech contains statements on how the Government of Sri Lanka plans to 1) collect revenue (such as through taxes) and 2) spend public money, over the following year and the medium-term. These statements of intent, or ‘promises’, cover a range of areas, such as providing relief to the poor, building new infrastructure, and investing in the health and education sectors. After the Budget Speech is delivered, it is discussed and debated for over a month in Parliament before it is approved (or rejected) by the House. During this period, the speech receives extensive coverage in the media, is discussed at forums and becomes a focal point in public discussion.

However, the considerable attention that surrounds the Budget Speech subsides sharply after the Budget is approved (or rejected) in Parliament. There is very little disclosure on the revisions made to the promises prior to approval or the progress made on implementing them thereafter. This lack of openness allows the government to make “grand promises” to the public in the Budget Speech that are then frequently unfulfilled. It also undermines the capacity of the public to hold the government accountable to delivering on its promises.

Tracking the budget’s implementation increases transparency about the Government’s delivery on its promises. The aim of this enhanced scrutiny is to encourage a more sustained public engagement and contribute to holding the government accountable for its public pronouncements.