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CBGA's work rests on sound research, the agenda for which is determined largely by the advocacy needs of the larger civil society in the country as well as the organisation's own advocacy efforts. Over the last eight years, CBGA's research has focused on the priorities underlying Union and State Budgets; the implications of budgetary policies and processes of the Union Government and the States for disadvantaged sections of the population; the bottlenecks in the implementation of major development schemes in the country; and some of the structural issues in India's fiscal federalism. In addition to these, CBGA has also analysed the policies and practices pertaining to a number of critical development issues.
CBGA's research has generated a lot of new and relevant information on budgetary policies and processes in the country, especially from the perspective of poor and disadvantaged sections of the population. The broad areas of its research include the following:
Assessing the Union Budget
One of CBGA's core mandates is to analyse Union Government's budgets from the perspective of social sectors such as Health, Education, Water and Sanitation and Food Security and some of the important economic sectors such as Agriculture and Rural Development. CBGA also assesses the implications of the Union Budget for disadvantaged sections of the population through its analysis of Gender Budgeting, Dalit Budgeting, Budgeting for Adivasis, Budgeting for Children and Budgeting for Religious Minorities.
The analyses of the Union Budget from the lens of social sectors and disadvantaged sections have been presented in several of CBGA's publications which include:
Response to Union Budget
A reasonably comprehensive analysis of the Union Budget is presented every year in this publication. The draft version of Response to Union Budget is brought out within 24 hours of the presentation of Union Budget in Parliament.
Background Papers for the National Convention on the Forthcoming Union Budget
CBGA brings out a collection of research papers on each of the sectors / themes being covered in the National Convention on the Forthcoming Union Budget every year, in order to inform all the participants of the Convention about the status of budgetary allocations, development outcomes and emerging policy issues in each sector.
A periodical brought out by CBGA thrice every year, Budget Track presents brief commentaries on important developments relating to legislations in Parliament, significant policy related developments in the Union Government and those pertaining to the Union Budget over the last few months.
Looking beyond Allocations to Problems in Implementation
A significant part of the story on budgets in India (with regard to any issue) lies in the implementation stage. Hence, CBGA has carried out in depth research on the bottlenecks in implementation of the major development schemes in the social sector by studying the budgetary processes and institutions at the district and sub-district levels. The findings of these studies have been presented in a number of District-level Study Reports of the organisation.
Most observers have opined that fiscal decentralisation and local level planning and budgeting by Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) should be the future direction for government budgeting in India. Hence, CBGA has assessed the scope and depth of fiscal decentralisation as well as the practices relating to decentralisation in a number of States. CBGA has also carried out a comprehensive analysis of the availability of information on fund devolutions to PRIs in the State Budget documents.
CBGA's research also focuses on some of the structural issues in India's federal fiscal architecture, such as, issues relating to Centre-State fiscal relations, the fiscal policy space available to the Centre and the States, issues pertaining to the recommendations of the Finance Commissions and the growing dominance of the Centre in the fiscal policy environment in the country. The findings of these studies have been presented in a number of Working Papers of the organisation.
In order to enhance public understanding of the discourse on taxation in India, CBGA has brought out a number of Primers on taxes. It has also carried out research on issues pertaining to India's tax system as compared to that in other countries, implications of exemptions / concessions in the Central Government tax system, the problems of tax avoidance and tax evasion, and progressivity of the tax system in the country. The findings of these studies have been presented in a number of Working Papers of the organisation.
An area where there is immense scope for interventions by civil society organisations is the Audit phase in the budget cycle. Audit tells us how well have the government budgets been implemented and therefore it is imperative that sufficient attention is paid to it. In an attempt to enable organisations working on issues of social sectors to use the information contained in audit reports, CBGA has initiated its work on audits by preparing Audit Alerts on critical government schemes. Further, CBGA has also brought out a Primer on Audits which would serve as an easy reference for civil society organisations.
Assessing Policies and Practices Pertaining to Critical Public Policy Issues
CBGA also carries out in depth analysis of critical public policy issues. In the past, following issues have been covered:
This special issue of Budget Track focusses on the key concerns relating to Taxation in India. In keeping with this, we have an interesting mix of contributions that look at some critical aspects such as expanding the fiscal space through taxation, tax havens, tax exemptions in India and more
People's Budget Initiative
A civil society coalition, which campaigns for the inclusion of people's movements, grassroots organisations and national and international NGOs in the policy processes that determine the priorities underlying government budgets in India.