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South Asian Alliance for Budget Accountability
South Asia accounts for 24 percent of the world's population, but its share in the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is only around 2 percent. This region accounts for almost half of the world's poor and many of the outcome indicators for the South Asian countries point to the persistence of acute development deficits in most of these countries. Apart from their shared history, shared borders and shared levels of deprivation, one issue that cuts across most of the South Asian countries is weak and unresponsive governance structures. A key instrument to understand the quality of governance structures in most of the South Asian countries is the government budget, which provides an outline of the nature and scope of government interventions and their quality.
Given this context, it becomes relevant to appraise and develop the capacity of the civil society stakeholders in the region to interrogate the government budgets as a means to understand and improve the governance landscape. This can be attempted by strengthening the discourse of rights, promoting citizens' participation, transparency and accountability in governance in those regions where such an engagement is missing.
In 2009, CBGA initiated a long term programme of creating a South Asian Alliance for Budget Accountability (SAABA) with the support of Oxfam Novib. This initiative sought to create a South Asian alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the region, which are engaging with budget analysis and advocacy for strengthening governance accountability. The initiative began with four countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
In the first stage of this work, CBGA identified CSOs which were keen to join this collaborative initiative. Twenty organisations from across the three countries, viz. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, came forward to be part of the initiative. Following the initial phase, Orientation Workshops were held to discuss the role and responsibility of South Asian Alliance for Budget Accountability (SAABA) and its CSO partners in the context of the regional alliance towards greater engagement with governance structures. Another key aspect pertained to building a collective understanding on the scope, objectives, methodology of the work and examining budget analysis and advocacy in the context of each of the three countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The next stage related to providing advanced training to select staff from partner CSOs from the three countries. Each of the partner CSOs from the three countries who were keen to engage with this collaboration identified one or two staff to take part in the Advanced Training and Internship programme. A four-day Workshop was conducted (in Kathmandu, Nepal in July 2010) for imparting advanced training to the staff from CSOs from across the three countries. For more details on the documents prepared as part of the programme, please click here. After the advanced training, a Review workshop was held in April 2011 where the staff from the partner CSOs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan shared the resource material on budgets being prepared by their respective organisations as well as advocacy initiatives on budgets that they are engaging with.
The success of SAABA would depend primarily on its ability to provide a sustained platform for civil society budget groups from across the South Asian region to engage with key concerns common across the countries and share the learning from their interventions in seeking accountability and transformation in governance systems.
CBGA will be making a concerted effort, with the help of other SAABA partners, for carrying this initiative forward by identifying other groups from the three countries as well as other South Asian countries that could join the alliance.
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.