Understanding the Politics of the Budget Process

The goal of this project was to support more effective, transparent and accountable budget processes in partner countries. The purpose is to enable donors to develop a deeper understanding of the politics and political context of budget processes in specific country settings. Also to develop techniques for understanding change drivers in three specific areas, including a) politics and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, b) politics of the budget process, and c) understanding patterns of accountability between state and citizen.


The project team worked in Mozambique and Malawi, carrying out literature reviews and interviews with key stakeholders, donors, and government officials involved in the budget process. The analytical framework that emerged was a combination of inductive gathering of insights from the two experiences as well as deductive reflection on theories of budgeting and policymaking.


These two studies demonstrated that both Malawi and Mozambique have serious problems of corruption, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and lack of accountability within their budget processes. While both countries demonstrated problems, budgeting in Malawi was significantly worse, with little connection between planned development strategy, budget allocations, budget execution, and results.

The political economy analysis suggested why both countries suffered from poor budgeting, and why Malawi suffered in particular. The model developed to characterise the political economy of budgeting in the two cases focused on key process variables (actors, institutions, sequences, feedback effects) that resulted in budget outcomes that varied in their degree of pro-poorness and the degree to which they deviated from planned and legislated objectives.

Project details

start date
12 February 2004
end date
12 February 2005


Recent work