In my line of work, I have come across many professionals from diverse fields of finance use the expression, “A budget is only a proposal, if our plans change we only have to review it. It is allowed”. Yet these same persons complain bitterly of the lack of fiscal discipline in our governance system and it effect on fueling corruption. If the basis of fiscal discipline is the budget, then is
budget really a proposal or a legal and policy document.

Budgeting as defined by Aaron Wildavsky in his book “Politics of the Budgeting Process” (1964) is the translation of financial resources into human purposes. From this definition, a budget only serve its purpose when it is addressing a human purpose.
Citizens of nations are humans with countless purposes drawn from their insatiable needs. The role of government in meeting these human purposes can not be underestimated. As a result, what the government does is key to the citizen. Hence, the growing interest in governance by the average person today. Many constitutions of countries vest the governance system in the hands of politicians through elections. The world accepted means of the politician expressing how the human purposes and needs shall be met is through the manifesto. After general elections, the people’s manifesto is translated into the government working paper or development blueprint. It is at this point that the role of a budget becomes important.

A budget is used to determine how many items of the development blueprint (manifesto promises)that can be executed within a twelve months period using the projected revenue as the justification. Note that a well taught through manifesto document and properly drafted development blueprint is always the basis for the budget policies in most government budgets.

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Every government budget is a carefully analyzed document with the intention to bring about a desired change. It contains development targets and economic policies recognized by many governance professional as the foundation to efficient public financial management and uses as the basis for the evaluation of economic performance. A budget is the single authorizing legal
document needed for a government to spend in a fiscal year. Without which, every expenditure is judged illegal. From the above,Can we still pride ourselves with such statements as “a budget is only a proposal that can be changed?”.
Until government officials begin to attach seriousness to a budget and its restrictions there can not be any meaningful fiscal discipline. Any government or official who still sees budget as a proposal and can be changed with swinging statistics is not fiscally discipline. Whenever a budget is seen as a proposal, its impact is compromised.

The citizen need to hold government accountable and reject the popular corruption slogan that a budget is only a proposal. A budget is so far the best basis for measuring fiscal discipline. It is important Governments and public officials reorient their thinking and approach to a budget. A budget is not a proposal but an Act of Parliament or Elected Representatives with the same legal recognition as any Law. Fiscal Discipline is possible.

Kingsley Bennett Nunoo
Budget Analyst

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