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March 26, 2008

Participatory Budgeting (PB)

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is in its infancy in the UK, but in Brazil, it has been used for years to allocate huge public budgets. In England, the Communities Department has issued a draft national strategy on how to get communities involved


Participatory budgeting began in 1989 in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, where it was launched by the socialist mayor of the city OIivio Dutra -a bastion of Brazil’s governing Workers’ Party. The system soon spread to other cities in Brazil, such as Belo Horizonte.
Under a typical Brazilian PB system, civic forums carve up 66 per cent of the participatory cash into separate thematic budgets, ensuring that key policy portfolios such as housing, education and transport receive a substantial chunk of public spending.

In many Brazilian cities, PB decisions direct spending across the municipal area as well as in local neighbourhoods, although each district is commonly allocated a chunk of each thematic budget (with those suffering from poor services given a bigger slice of the cake). Locals then vote on which projects, within each theme, they wish to see funded.

Typically, the remaining third of the PB budget is given over to free- style spending, which can be used to finance a wide range of projects. As Alan Budge, associate at England’s PB Unit and global scholar of PB, says: “If they want to put up a statue of the local football hero, they can.”

The sums of money allocated through PB in Brazil are huge: between 1992 and 2002, more than US$ 700 million was allocated through the system in Porto Alegre alone. In each year, the spend represented 15 to 25 per cent of the

On a personal note, felt a bit rattled after the meeting today – I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later Bunny Huggers had to happen, and we all do need to move on to pursue different (and perhaps personally more meaningful) things, I do however feel responsible for making things difficult. I have always enjoyed making my work personal and city’s budget, and by 2000 some 30,000 people were voting each year in PB polls.

“Participatory budgeting has completed reversed the traditional patronage approach
that characterises public administration in most Brazilian cities,” says Professor Rualdo Menegat, a course coordinator at the Institute of Geosciences at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sui, and a former deputy environment secretary in Porto Alegre.

The system is now common-place around South America, and it has begun to emerge in Europe and the Anglophone world. PB has been used in France, Germany, Wales, Italy, Germany, Scotland and Spain.

Notably, it has been adopted in Canada -where some cities use it to allocate public housing resources -and looks set to become wide- spread around England.