Claiming that the budgetary process in India was not transparent enough, an NGO on Wednesday urged the government to place more information related to the budget in the public domain.
As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gears up to present the Union Budget 2018-19 on Thursday, the NGO, Transparency International India, said on parameters of international standards on budget transparency, the Indian budget was considered “less transparent” as it put only “limited” information in the public domain.
“Budgetary process in India is still non-transparent, non-participative with poor accessibility by citizenry,” it said in a press release in New Delhi.
While the government “boasts its intentions of transparency”, India ranks low on indicators representing budget transparency, it said, demanding greater openness in the budgetary process.
“India is not one of the most transparent countries. India scored 48 on 100 in the open budget survey of 2017. It is interesting to see that all the major powers of the world do have better transparency in their budget processes as compared to other countries,” it said.
This meant that for a nation to emerge as a promising democracy, “transparency in the system” would be a key factor, it said.
“India amongst its neighbouring countries fares better than all, but Bangladesh. Economically not as sound as India, Bangladesh has better transparency than India in its system,” the statement said.
Despite its utmost importance, the state budget in India remains “one of the most intractable of documents, incomprehensible for ordinary citizens, specialists and non-specialists alike”, it said.
This makes it difficult for the people to participate in shaping public policy, the NGO said.
“The lack of budget transparency cannot simply be treated only as a serious violation of democratic rules and good governance. It leads to severe economic and financial problems related to the spread of corruption and waste,” it said. Knowledge of the state budget should not be limited to experts and specialists, the release said.
“It’s high time now for a citizen’s budget for easy understanding of the total budgetary revenue and expenditure statements, the mid-year review pre-budget statement and the audit report to be published on time, not published online or produced only for government use,” it said.
The budget in India was “still more or less the exclusive domain of the civil servant due to quite a complex system and procedure”, it said.
Transparency International India describes itself as a ''non-political, independent, non-governmental anti-corruption organisation.