The first stage of the budget process takes place almost exclusively with the executive branch of government, though it can include a number of actors within the branch. It is at this point that the parameters of the budget are set and decisions are made about revenues that will be generated and how these resources will be distributed across programs and activities. The proposed budget that results from this process is not only the blueprint of action for the government in the coming budget year but also an actual statement of the governments priorities and commitments.
The executive branch normally formulates the annual budget behind closed doors. However, there are often opportunities for civil society to influence what goes into the Executive Budget Proposal. In countries where the legislature has limited authority to amend the proposed budget, the formulation stage may represent the best opportunity for CSOs to influence the budget. It is critical that CSOs take advantage of this opportunitybudgets tend to build on those of prior years, so decisions made during the formulation stage often have impacts several years into the future.
CSOs can engage in the formulation stage by using evidence generated from analysis and monitoring of previous budgets to advocate for or against expenditures that are likely to be in the budget proposal. In addition, they can communicate information about the publics needs and priorities, based on their budget analysis and monitoring, as well as on efforts to gather public opinion on what should be in the budget.
For example, in Kenya, IBP’s partner the Institute for Economic Affairs coordinates an annual civil society meeting that culminates in a report to the government on a set of agreed upon priorities, and the Uganda Debt Network presents the results of its community monitoring teams work to national policy forums in order to influence Ugandas budget priorities.