Posted by Arunima Kumar on 29 May, 2018
The most well-known example of a city practicing the participatory budget system is Porto Alegre, a city of about 1.3 million in the south of the country. The system—which essentially involves ordinary citizens in planning for the yearly capital budget—is based on the work of 16 forums based on local regions of the city. In addition, there are 5 thematic forums (created in 1994), addressing education, health and social services, transportation, city organization, and economic development. There is also a municipal budget council with representatives from the regional and thematic forums.
The system was originated in 1989 by the Union of Neighborhood Associations. By 1995, some 7,000 people were participating in the regional assemblies and 14,000 more in further meetings to negotiate compromises among regions’ conflicting demands. The system is complex and continues virtually throughout the year. The regional forums even micromanage the actual implementation of capital projects. According to the municipality, more than 70 cities elsewhere in Brazil and throughout the world (including Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Saint Denis) have adapted this system to their own needs. A study of the city management process in Porto Alegre (Pozzobon, 1998) revealed that from 1992 to 1995, the city increased its total tax receipts by 34 percent. The former mayor of the city claimed the popularity of the budgeting system contributed to a tripling of the city’s tax revenues during the period 1989–1999.
The process of participatory budgeting would not have been possible without the active, time-consuming, and persistent efforts of local government officials to work with neighborhood groups. Raul Pont, the mayor of the city during the period 1996–2000, implies that the participatory system in Porto Alegre was so popular that it resulted in the mayor’s party (the PT or “Worker’s Party”) winning the state governorship in 1996. Taken from the book ‘Cities Transformed: Demographic Change and its implications in the developing world’ by Mark Montgomery, Richard Stern, Barney Cohen, and Holly E. Reed