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Democratizing the Budget: Fundar’s Budget Analysis and Advocacy initiatives in Mexico

By: Mark Robinson, Vinod Vyasulu

The government budget has always been an important fiscal tool. It is the medium through which elected governments convert their pre-election promises into policies and programs. Government policy priorities find expression in the tax proposals and the expenditure allocations made in the annual budget. Analysis of budget data provides important insights into economic performance. Audits provide information on the integrity of the budget process. However, budget analysis is usually confined to government departments and academic institutions.

In the 1990s, civil society organizations (CSOs) across the globe began to use budget information and analysis as an advocacy tool for different causes. The results from independent budget analysis were increasingly used by civil society to demand accountability and changes in the priorities and programs of governments.As a consequence, the budget is no longer the exclusive preserve of finance ministries and academic institutions.  This is an important step forward in the democratic process of electing governments because it provides citizens with facts on which they can make their voting decisions. Budget groups in civil society have pursued different approaches in different countries. This paper examines a leading example of civil society budget analysis and advocacy in Latin America—that of Fundar, Centre for Research and Analysis—in Mexico City.

The paper is based on interviews conducted over a two week period with Fundar staff and civil society organizations in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Chiapas, complemented by in-depth interviews with senior officials in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health. Unfortunately, the researchers could not meet with any of the federal legislators or congressional committee members with whom Fundar works as they were all out of the country for Latin American parliamentary meetings. Extensive use was made of documentation and budget data collected by Fundar.