What is Social Budgeting?
While there is no single definition, the term social budgeting is the process by which society’s goals and priorities, as well as the rights of the entire population—including those that could be facing social exclusion and discrimination—are better reflected throughout the budgeting process. Often, those with least voice include poor households and children, women, and socially excluded groups and communities (e.g. indigenous people).
The budget is one of the main instruments of the public sector to achieve society’s goals.
Broadly defined, it is a representation of society’s preferences and priorities. Government agents and representatives, often in conjunction with civic groups and organizations, make decisions on how government funds should be used. However, the process of arriving at a budget often involves difficult political decisions regarding how resources should be raised and allocated across various competing uses. In addition, budgets are the product of a repetitive budget cycle process, which covers formulation, analysis, execution, tracking and performance evaluation.
Any meaningful analysis of the budget should focus on this entire process, rather than just on the actual allocations. The latter may or may not be carried out, nor result in the expected policy impact initially envisioned. A variety of malfunctions, including government failures, could occur on various points of the budget cycle, and it is partly because of this that society’s goals are not achieved, frustrating the advancement of children’s and women’s rights and improvements in human development outcomes.
There are many different stakeholders in the budgeting process.
Government stakeholders include congress-people, ministers, heads of state, parliamentarians, and agency bodies. Civic stakeholders include myriad civic groups and organizations as well as individual voters and constituents. Business stakeholders include businesses that might profit from specific allocations of funding or proposed projects.
Each of these stakeholders has a different perspective on how they would like to see government resouces allocated. Conflict can often arise out of conflicting priorities. However, as different agencies and stakeholders engage in intentional social budgeting work, there appear to be a few common goals shared across these initiatives. These include making budgets more responsive to the needs as well as promoting the rights of all sectors of society including those with the weakest voice, notably the poor and other potentially excluded groups; and making the budgeting process much more transparent, and thus contributing to the efficiency and accountability of the public sector.