Citizen Par ticipation in Budgeting:
Donald P. Moynihan
Par ticipator y Budgeting in Asia
The postmodern argument
Disillusionment with bureaucracy
The search for the democratic ideal
The needs of developing countries
Participation Fosters Good Governance
Participation Promotes Transparency
Participation Increases Social Justice
Participation Helps Individuals Become Better
A primary goal of real participation is to increase the direct
representation of all citizens. All citizens, not just those who are
qualified by election, position, expertise, influence, or money,
should be able to provide input.
According to Habermas (1989), participation processes must
include all affected by a decision and disregard the social
status of the participants.
A second primary goal of participation is that government
provides for genuine discourse with its citizens and takes their
input seriously, which Pateman (1989) labels full participation.
The use of participatory budgeting forums is of little benefit if
the government does not listen.
Public officials make decisions, but
citizens have strong influence.
Public officials and selected
interest groups make decisions.
Large, diverse groups of citizens
engage in meaningful discourse
Interest groups exert significant
influence; most citizens lack
opportunities to participate.
Public officials make decisions;
citizens have limited influence.
Government elite make decisions;
interest groups have limited
Large, diverse groups of citizens
engage in limited discourse with
Interest groups exert influence;
most citizens lack opportunities to
Public officials make decisions.
Public officials make decisions in
Participation is symbolic but
involves large, diverse groups of
Participation is symbolic involving
only a small number of citizens.
There is no agreement on what par ticipator y budgeting
means or how to go about it: the study and dissemination of
the idea of participatory budgeting are following practice
rather than the other way around.
Participatory budgeting aims to infuse the values of citizen
involvement into the most basic and frequently the most formal
procedure of governance—the distribution of resources through
the budgeting process.
Par ticipation in resource allocation
Ex: Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre
Before the introduction of participatory budgeting, the city government
was dominated by a clientelistic approach, in which public resources were
used to maintain a political machine (Fung and Wright 2001).
A key event leading to the use of participatory budgeting was the election
of the Worker’s Party candidate as mayor.
The mayor’s office is responsible for initiating the budget bill
The municipal government then organizes a series of public meetings by
Two meetings a year occur in each of 16 regions. The meetings include
The first meeting includes a discussion of how the previous budget was
At the second set of regional meetings, citizen-delegates report their
findings from neighborhood meetings. Two delegates and a substitute are
selected to represent each region at the municipal budget council, called
the Participatory Budgeting Council.
The mayor can accept the budget or ask the council for revisions (a request
that the council can override with a two-thirds majority).
The mayor’s office incorporates the proposals (which usually deal with
public works) in its proposed budget. The mayor presents the budget to the
local legislature, which usually approves it.
Ex: Tracking Spending In Uganda
The World Bank, in collaboration with the Ugandan government, the local
Economic Policy Research Centre, and an independent Ugandan consulting
firm, MSE Consultants, sur veyed 250 government schools , randomly
selected from 19 of Uganda’s 39 districts.
The results showed that between 1991 and 1995, only 13 percent of non
salary spending on education reached the schools.
Education of fices at the district level had been keeping most of
the non salar y funding —as well as the bulk of the tuition fees paid by
Schools and districts were required to make public the amount
of government money they received .
Schools were also given more direct control over resources. Allocations were
deposited directly into individual school accounts , and schools
became responsible for buying their own goods rather than relying on
central purchasing at the district level.
By 2001, 80 percent of budgeted funds were reaching the schools, as
A basic performance benchmark is the satisfaction of citizens and the
quality of their interaction with the public sector.
In Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka, India, such information
is presented in the form of performance report cards by the Public Affairs
Respondents were asked to describe the quality of the services they had
received in the past six months: their overall satisfaction, staff behavior,
how many visits were required to solve a problem, and whether the problem
was actually solved.
The 1993 and 1999 surveys found low overall levels of satisfaction with
services. Relative to middle-income households, the poor had to visit
agencies more often to solve a problem, were more likely to have to pay a
bribe (usually to police), and were less likely to have their problems solved.
PAC developed the report card format and aggressively promoted the report
cards to the media.
The responses from agency heads and senior government officials were
polite but lukewarm except for a few agencies.
PAC organized workshops. In one session public officials met with one
another to discuss the efforts they were making to address criticisms. In
another session representatives from the agencies met with the public and
discussed the problems raised by the report cards.
The chief minister of Karnataka created a “Bangalore Agenda Task Force”
that included prominent city residents in an effort to offer responses to the
problems identified. The Bangalore City Corporation also promoted an
informal network of NGOs and city officials called Swabhimana (selfesteem) (Paul 1998).
The 2003 round of report cards surveyed more than 1,700 households.
These surveys found increased satisfaction with almost all agencies, a lower
incidence of problems, and less corruption (
Why Government Matters?
Administrators have substantial power in determining how much
influence to share (the level of participation) and which groups or
individual citizens to involve (the range of participation).
The attitude of governments is a major predictor of whether
participation will be undertaken and whether it will be meaningful.
Painter (2002) argues that the main determinant of successful
participation was the role of government: “Government will and
expectations strongly determine the quality of the process. An active,
capable, and experienced civil society is helpful in influencing the
quality of the participatory process, but not determinative.”
How Can Citizen Participation Enhance
Citizens have the best knowledge of their needs, their
preferences, and local conditions
Citizen participation improves vertical, or social, accountability.
Participatory budgeting has the potential to improve the quality
of democracy. Participation in public decision making is a form
of direct democracy that allows for a more meaningful
democratic relationship between citizens and government than
that provided by representative democracy (McGee 2003).
1. INITIATIVES THAT IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY AND
It attempts to bring information on citizens’ opinions and
preferences to the attention of subnational governments.
This level of participation relies on the quality of the information
needed to persuade decision makers to change development and
Getting ordinary citizens involved requires that the analysis be easy
to understand and relevant to the concerns of average citizens
The involvement of ordinary citizens strengthens civil society
groups’ efforts at monitoring and auditing public projects and
services in a systematic way.
Founded in 1985 as a trade union and a tribal welfare organization, DISHA
aims to improve the living conditions of the large tribal populations in
Pathey (DISHA unit) analyzes issues in the state budget of special relevance
to poor tribal people. Pathey distributes its findings simultaneously to
legislators and target population groups.
DISHA built a network of nongovernmental groups, including trade unions,
to create a coalition for dialogue with the government. DISHA/Pathey also
launched campaigns to inform and educate state legislators and officials on
In fact, a third of the people who receive material about the budget
undertake follow-up action.
Members of the state legislature, political parties, and senior public
servants make significant use of Pathey’s findings and suggestions (Paul
2005a;Wagle and Shah 2003).
Paul (2005a) argues that programmatic shifts in budget
allocations are far less likely to result from arm’s length
participation than they are from direct citizen involvement in
There are two types of this initiatives
1. Indirect participation in the budgeting process (Consultation)
2. Direct participation in the budgeting process (Joint Decision
The local government decides if and when consultation will
take place, sets the agenda for consultation, and, to a degree,
determines who will be consulted.
In particular, citizens may be consulted only on “safe” public
policy issues that are not sensitive or resource consuming.
In fact, several risks attach to consultation of this nature,
particularly if initiated and controlled by the state.
This is not to say that consultation is always an ineffective
participatory mechanism. Whether it is effective depends
largely on the intention of the local government and the
The ordinance states that the city government of Naga should recognize
that “the will of the people shall always reign supreme” and that the primary
duty of the government is to ensure that this will is carried out.
The ordinance proposes a partnership with NGOs and people’s
organizations for the conception, implementation, and evaluation of all
government activities and functions.
The city created the Naga City People’s Council, made up of
businesspeople, citizens, and NGOs. Members of the council have to be
accredited by the city
The city alos conducts multilevel consultations on priorities for development
and holds citywide referendums on local issues
Ex: Capacity Building of Union Parishads
Srajganj District, Bangladesh
In 2000 the government of Bangladesh, UNDP, and UNCDF jointly initiated
the Srajganj local government development project, aimed at developing
capacity for participatory processes at the lowest tier of local government,
the union parishads.
The project consists of two interventions:
Provision of annual block grants of about $6,000 to each union for
allocation to projects in wards
The institutionalization of open budget sessions to establish citizen
engagement with the local budget.
In Indonesia local communities have established village
councils and development forums that exercise full control over
the allocation and use of the block grant to the village. The
Kecamatan Development Program (KDP) targets the poorest
kecamatans (subdistricts) in Indonesia.
It aims to foster more democratic and participatory forms of
local governance by strengthening kecamatan and village
capacities and improving community participation in
The project covers 30 percent of villages at this level, touching
the lives of 10 million people. It is supported by facilitators and
consultants at both the village and national levels who provide
technical support and training.
Improved policy decisiveness.
Increased accountability of public officials and elected
Greater trust in government
1. The environment in which the participation initiative
The nature of the formal and informal political system
The willingness of state and local government official to listen
Legal institutional, and policy frameworks for participation
Clear functional decentralization framework
The budgeting environment, including linkages between
planning and budgeting
The civic culture and civic capacity for participation
2. The design and implementation of participatory