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Citizen's Guide to the Budget

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Practice Advice on Budgeting and Financial Management

Citizen’s Guide to the Budget (OECD)

Summary Advice: The authors of this OECD journal article advise that governments should promote access to budget information and and improve accountability by describing the budget proposals and public finances in one simple, plain text document made available to the general public.

Main Points: Access to information is crucial for citizens in order to understand how tax revenue is being used by the government, to become involved in public debates during the budget process and hold a government accountable for its promises. Publishing a “citizens’ guide to budget” would allow governments to state the budgetary and policy objectives for the near future. In fact, the IMF calls for the publication of a citizens’ guide to budget, arguing that “ fiscal information should be presented in a way that facilitates policy analysis and promotes accountability”.

The article identifies the following characteristics of a good citizens’ guide to the budget:

  • It should be an easy-to-understand, self-contained summary of the main features of the annual budget.
  • It should be an objective and technical document, not a political tool, describing the spending plans in a neutral manner.
  • It should be comprehensive, reliable and relevant.
  • It should be produced by the exective branch, and should be presented as a government’s desire to explain publicly how public resources are managed.
  • It should contain information on the core substantive elements and provide a brief description of the institutional structure inside and outside the budget.
  • It should highlight key fiscal risks such as deviations in key economic variables ( oil prices, exchange rate, interest rates, etc).
  • It should include a section which discusses what the government is doing to improve service delivery and other government activities.

The government should also facilitate the dissemination of the guide with the assistance of the media and civil society groups. 

Source: OECD (2010). Pettie Murray and Jon Shields, "Producing a Citizen's Guide to the Budget: Why, What and How?" OECD Journal on Budgeting, Vol 2010/2 at: (accessed 3 January 2013)

Page Created By: Khilola B. Zakhidova on 3 January 2013. Updated by Ian Clark on 4 January 2013. The content presented on this page is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases. This material does not necessarily reflect the official view of the publishing organization.

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