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This New Website Wants to Make the Budget Simpler for All to Understand

Seeking to make public finance more transparent, Open Budgets India offers comprehensive documents and information from Union, state and municipal budgets.

Breaking from tradition, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the budget for 2017-18 on the first day of February. The annual budget is one of the most anticipated events of the calendar year, its effects extending to every aspect of life from income tax to the price of daily vegetables.

Yet, the budget is a source of intrigue for many who struggle to understand the decisions and its implications. While the Union Budget takes centre stage, many decisions are part of the state budgets and those also remain inaccessible to the public.

A new initiative titled Open Budgets India (OBI) seeks to make the budget accessible and more comprehensive to the common man. It was launched on January 27.

Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley, presenting the General Budget to the President, Pranab Mukherjee, on February 01, 2017.
Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley presenting the General Budget to the President, Pranab Mukherjee, on February 1, 2017.
Image source: PIB

Helmed by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), a non-profit policy research organisation, in collaboration with other organisations and initiatives, OBI is an open data portal that publishes budget documents pertaining to the Union as well as state and municipal budgets.

Subrat Das, executive director of CBGA, said in an interview to Scroll, “In India, because of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act’s requirements, the Central government has brought in reasonably good transparency in Budget documents. But this deteriorates at the state level and the state governments are not making an effort towards proactive disclosure.”

The OBI initiative is an effort to gather budgetary statements from three levels of administration and make them available online in accessible formats. The team also prepares machine-readable data sets from compatible documents, infographics and basic information to help people familiarise themselves with budgetary processes and decisions.

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Every document uploaded on the website has a Creative Commons license and can be downloaded and used by anyone.

OBI is an ongoing project, and the team has plans to expand their repertoire of documents and also facilitate comparison of various state budgets across years. The web portal is currently inviting feedback and suggestions from users.

To access Open Budgets India’s documents, head to their website here.

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