An ad issued by the Punjab government yesterday asked citizens to participate in the budgetary process by sharing their opinions on the allocation of the budget. It was an effort to increase citizens’ participation in the political process in order to prioritise their needs and concerns for the annual budget.

The ad is meant to inculcate an aspect of citizen budgeting into the process of allocation of the annual budget of the Punjab government. Budget-making, the most important policy-announcement for the Punjab government, is also a very technical and complex exercise which lays out allocations and estimations for different functions in government. Due to its technicality and handling of intricate financial information, governments can often make the mistake of alienating citizens from the process, who are the largest stakeholders of the budget allocation.

This simple and accessible form of citizen budgeting thus is an effective way to increase citizen participation in the budgetary process. By making complex budgetary information understandable to the common man and centring citizens’ needs and concerns, the budgetary process is bound to be more transparent. Easily comprehendible information about the government budget is also an important part of citizens’ right to information. Government effort to make citizens feel heard will increase political participation, which will make it easier to hold the government accountable. While allocation and expenditures are critical issues, only a transparent and accountable budget-making regime can ensure budgets achieve their results.

The government should expand upon these efforts and other provincial governments should follow suit. The government should particularly empower low-income segments of the population to raise their voices and prioritise their needs – this concept works best at a municipal level. While inclusive budgeting in Pakistan has been weak traditionally, the government has made an effort to reach out to communities to make the process more transparent and inclusive – these efforts should be strengthened this year too.