Sunday, October 3, 2010

Participatory Budgeting?

What is of value to a city?

Citizens of Porto Alegre have been deciding that form them selves since the early 90s when the city first introduced participatory budgeting. This system involves a series of assemblies in each of the city's sixteen districts where the priorities of the people are discussed and decided upon.

The movement grew from 900 participants in its first year to upwards of 30,000 a few years later. During this time the number of children in municipal schools tripled. Hey, even the World Bank likes it.

Of course there are issues with participatory budgeting. If you hate your neighbours you aren't like to agree with them on how to spend community money. But I can imagine that differences are largely based on inequality. We can tackle the roots of inequality can't we? (hm...)

The people who take part in participatory budgeting have the power and the right to set the value of goods in their society. They have the power, the right and the freedom to determine what should be done to make their lives better. This is a step in the right direction. This, I believe, is a step of development.

(Then again, we have this: a clown winning a seat in Congress in Brazil. But municipal and federal politics are different animals, aren't they?)