Bottom-Up Budgeting or also known as the Participatory Budgeting

Bottom-Up Budgeting or also known as the Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a “budgeting process under which those people impacted by a budget are actively involved in the budget creation process” (“Participative Budgeting”, 2018). It is also a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiates over the distribution of public resources and these programs are implemented at the request of governments, citizens, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society organizations (CSOs) to allow citizens to play a direct role in deciding how and where resources should be spent (Shah, 2007).
In the many structures of a traditional citizen’s participation, communication between citizens in a neighborhood and their local authority, communication is the prime means involved. But by disparity, there is a possibility that citizen from different neighborhoods were jointly together through delegate’s committees in PB, and this kind of horizontal communication has been observed in a city in Brazil and in other PBs countries (Sintomer, Herzberg, & Allegretti, 2013).
With the level of importance of citizen’s participation in promoting good governance in, with regards to PB, let us discussed the scheme behind this famous budgeting system. Participatory budgeting, commenced in Brazil in the year 1980, supported by three mayors that were elected from a coalition led by the Brazilian’s Worker’s Party along with its staff. Its first full implementation process happened in 1989, in one of its settlement, the City of Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul. Although this city was not in far with realities with other cities in the country, the presence of homeless and hunger people, tremendous inequality in terms of income and quality of life between the rich and the poor, “a challenge to the progressive agenda of the current government” (“Participatory Budgeting Brazil”, n.d.), through this system, it “gives them international recognition as a leader in democracy transparency and accountability in local governance” (“Assessment of Participatory Budgeting in Brazil”, 2005).
Based on the illustration above, the participatory budgeting involves three comparable flows of meetings which continuous throughout the year, these were the neighborhood assemblies, thematic assembles and meetings of delegates for city wide coordinating issues. Fund allocations were discussed among the 16 districts of the city’s neighborhood assemblies that engaged in departmental duties, i.e. water supply and sewage, street paving, parks and schools. Venues for these great assemblies include public places like union center, gyms, churches, clubs and more. While the city government presents presentation of accounts from previous years that marks the beginning of the events, yearly, and the investment plan for the present year that was decided in the previous year’s meeting. A debate will start and will continue for nine months, giving each district two sets of ranking, a) a set for requirements within the city district, i.e. pavement, school construction or water lines, and b) a set for efforts that will affect the whole city, i.e. cleaning up the beaches. A public debate will then pursue to decide the criteria for assigning the investment budget for districts. Criteria’s includes population, an index of poverty, a measure of shortages (such as a lack of pavement or the lack of a school), the assigned priorities, and so on (“Participatory Budgeting Brazil”, n.d.).
On the other hand, since the participation is the key element that was being discussed, let us cite a quick theory about this. A theory developed by Sherry R. Arnstein (1969) about citizen’s involvement in planning process, she described it by a “Ladder of Citizen’s Participation” (see illustration _ ) that showed participation ranging from high to low (“Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation”, n.d.)
Here she categorized the citizen’s participation on a ladder each steps corresponds to the “amount of citizen control within the process of determining a program or policy”. Efforts have also been made to talk about participation as an instrument that can be used by people to encourage significant social reform. This will enables them to share in the benefits of the well off society and highlights the fundamental point that “participation without redistribution of power is an empty and frustrating process for the powerless” (Theyyan, 2015). Summarizing the steps into three categories are: 1) Non-participant that includes the manipulation and therapy that aims to cure or educate the participants, they have no legitimate power or functions, 2) Tokenism composed of informing, consultation and placation where in information flows from the public officials to the citizens with “no channel provided for feedback and no power for negotiation, and lastly the 3) Citizen’s Control that consists of partnership, delegation and citizen’s control that agree to share planning and decision-making responsibilities through such structures as joint policy boards, planning committees and mechanisms for resolving impasses (Theyyan, 2015)..
Going back to the participatory budgeting in the City Porto Alegre, Souza (2015) stated the three central problems of participation that comprises of implementation problem, inequality problem and the cooptation problem. Although given this kind of difficulty in the different cities in the country, still, programs created in the city were quite successful. Maybe because as cited, participation implies different things to different people, for others it is improving efficiency, for some is for improved access of people and social groups and more on people empowerment.


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