Ever Since the ascendancy of Keynesian Economics, public spending assumed an important role in the functions of governments all over the world. Since 1764, budget presentation is believed to have become a regular practice in British Parliament. Later, other countries also started preparing and presenting annual budgets in their parliaments. Eventually the structure and dimensions of budgets changed significantly. Apart from being annual statements of accounts, budgets are important policy documents with clearly indicated objectives, strategies and policy directives to mobilise economic resources and judiciously allocate expenditures to achieve economic change with inclusiveness, maximum social welfare and better distribution of wealth and incomes. Thus, the budgets significantly impact the governance structure of a country. Though the budgetary impact at the micro, meso and macro levels have been studied by scholars, institutions specialising in such studies are not too many. In India as a whole, there are only 4 or 5 such institutions. Each one of them is focusing on different aspects of budgets. Though the budgetary process of central and state governments is fairly well established, the budget making procedures and practices of Panchayati raj institutions are not properly streamlined. There is a need to make serious analyses of the various implications of the budgets of union and state governments on the economy in general and the budgeting system of local bodies in particular. It is also necessary to substantially improve the budgetary practice in local bodies making them an instrument of financial management at the local level. In India there is a dearth of Universities or institutions conducting academic courses as well as training programmes on Budgets and Fiscal management.
It is in this context that Cochin University of Science and Technology instituted a Centre for Budget Studies (CBS), hereafter referred to as Centre, in 2012. Its main task at hand is to make comprehensive analyses of the budget documents of the India Union, the constituent states and the local self-governments; teach budgetary theories, processes of budget making and policies; train personnel engaged in budget making in the state of Kerala and local bodies; and impart budget awareness to the wider public. The necessary finances for setting up the Centre was provided by the Government of Kerala by allotting funds in the state budget. The Centre is still a toddler making its unsteady strides towards its desired goals.
The vision of the Centre for Budget studies is to become a Centre of Excellence in teaching, research and community outreach in its specialised area in ten years from now. In order to realise its goal, the Centre will make all efforts to excel in teaching, research and its social commitments. The values of the centre will be institutional integrity, openness to knowledge and change, quality and continuous improvement in its teaching, research and extension activities, provision of a safe atmosphere that supports freedom of enquiry and above all commitment to the society. The Centre is in its early stage of development facing a number of challenges. Its steady growth towards the realisation of its vision needs to be addressed with careful planning and thoughtful implementation.
The major objective is to contribute to theory and practice of budget and budget making at the national, sub-national and local levels.
Teaching is an important functional area of the Centre. By the academic year 2019-20, the Centre proposes to offer a group of optional courses relating to budgets and budgetary policies at the Masters level in the Applied Economics Department of the University and also to administer inter- departmental courses. In a few years, the Centre proposes to start its own Masters Programme in Public Economics and Policy. Starting doctoral programme is also in the pipeline. In addition to teaching academic courses, it is also proposed to start short term training programmes on budgetary policy and practices to Central and state and more particularly to local body staff engaged in budget preparation.
Research studies will be undertaken to make scientific analyses of budgets of governments in India at various levels and to study the impact of budgetary policies on economy and society. The Centre will encourage and promote multidisciplinary research to come to grips with the different aspect of budgets that cannot be captured by the analytical apparatus of any single discipline. Research Seminars, conferences, discussions and workshops will be a regular activity of the Centre.
Apart from its academic functions, the Centre also focuses on programmes to disseminate its research output to the wider public. Public lectures, workshops and budget awareness programmes will be periodically organised to cater to this need. Every year, the Centre organises meetings on state and central budgets by participating expert speakers for the benefit of the teachers, students, staff and the public at large.
The successful implementation of the strategy of the Centre needs networking with local colleges, universities and teaching, training and research institutions in the area of its mandate at the local, regional, national and international levels. This would involve collaboration in teaching research and training and other academic activities. The immediate task is forging academic linkages with Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, Trivandrum and Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA), Trichur within Kerala. Research collaboration is envisaged with the Centre for Socio Economic and Environmental Studies and Institute of Small Enterprises and Development, both located in Cochin and engaged in studies encompassing the thrust areas of the Centre. Academic collaboration with other national and international institutions also will be established in due course.
At present the full financial support is provided by the government of Kerala. Once the activities of
the Centre increase, more funds will have to be sought through research and other projects
supported by national and international organisations, consultancy and training programmes.
Tt is expected that by the end of 2021, at least 10% of the finance required will be raised by the Centre on its own through projects, research and consultancy. After 5 years, 25% of the required operational funds will be generated by the Centre.
After a period of 8 years, it is expected that, the Centre will generate at least 50% of its operating expenditure through its own efforts. By that time the necessary physical infrastructure and human capital are expected to be in place.