Information about participatory budgeting
Participatory budgeting is a system that enables the citizens to influence in the way in which tax revenues will be used. Here you will find more information about participatory budgeting and learn how it is different from other ways of participating.
Information about PB
Participatory budgeting is a democratic way of operating where a municipality or other public operator devolves its decisive economic power to the people of the region it governs. For example, a municipality can reserve a certain amount of funds from its budget for the citizens to plan and decide on the expenditure of the funds. This is how the power is spread out from the politicians and office-holders to the people.
What is central in participatory budgeting is the genuine sensation of the participants of having their opinions heard as well as having results for their actions. Operations where only the politicians or administrative personnel have the decision-making power or where the citizens only get to influence in matters that are insignificant do not reflect the principles of participatory budgeting.
Participatory budgeting came into being at the end of the 1980s in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the system was developed in order to improve the living conditions of the poor neighbourhoods and the disparity between the residential areas. Participatory budgeting has later expanded and become a method for increasing the opportunities of all people to participate and have an influence. Participatory budgeting arrived in Finland in the 2010s.
Significant international operators, such as the World Bank and the United Nations (UN), have advocated for participatory budgeting.
Characteristics of participatory budgeting
The characteristic features of participatory budgeting are the distribution of decision-making power to the citizens, the unpredictability of results and the flexibility of the system.
Means like feedback forms and public hearings are generally used to collect information from the citizens in order to support the decision-making. In participatory budgeting, the citizens’ opportunity to influence in the local decision-making is further improved. Regular people get to participate and decide how the local tax revenues are used.
The results of participatory budgeting are always somewhat unpredictable as it is impossible to predict the citizens’ ideas beforehand. Uncertainty about the allocation of the reserved funds continues throughout the participatory budgeting process: the implemented ideas will only be known after the voting has taken place.
The flexibility of the system is characteristic to participatory budgeting. Thousands of participatory budgeting projects have taken place all over the world and very few of them have been alike. The amounts of money of the participatory budgeting projects, the stages open for the citizens, the themes and the voting procedures significantly vary.
In other words, participatory budgeting is a versatile democratic tool constantly in change and without a single model of implementation. It offers an endless number of interesting topics of research for researchers, students and public administration employees. There are also many persons studying the participatory budgeting of the City of Tampere.
What are the risks and benefits of participatory budgeting?
Participatory budgeting has been extensively studied. It has been discovered that the method increases interaction between the citizens and the representatives of local administration as well as improves the sensation of mutual trust and understanding.
For the citizens, participatory budgeting provides an opportunity of being involved in the decision-making process all the way from innovation to making the final decisions. Participation in the participatory budgeting increases the citizens’ understanding about the local government’s ways of operating, the stages of the decision-making process as well as the economic realities, for example.
The government in turn obtains more information about the views and hopes of the citizens. By means of participatory budgeting, resources can be allocated to the objects that the citizens find the most important. At its best, participatory budgeting benefits both the citizens and the government – transparency and increased interaction often lead to more efficient use of resources and reciprocal learning.
The benefits of participatory budgeting will not realise without the principles of the system (openness and devolution of power). In such a situation, the citizens will lose their trust in both the government and their own possibilities of making an impact.
The implementation method of participatory budgeting must always be applied according to the objectives and the available resources. Successful participatory budgeting requires expertise and enough resources.