Done well under the right circumstances, PB can have the following benefits:
- improve accountability and transparency in governance by making the budgeting process public
- empower citizens to take a more active role in their communities,
- increase citizens’ knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of government officials
- help citizens understand the limitations of local government, the cost of public projects, and the nature of trade-offs in priorities
- increase government efficiency,
- reduce corruption and dismantles patronage networks,
- increase social justice by providing a platform for traditionally excluded members of society to have a voice in decision-making processes, potentially leading to more just and equitable governance
- improve the living conditions of the poor
(See Shah 2007, Wampler 2007 and Avritzer 2010 for further detail).
Limitations of Participatory Budgeting
Although PB holds a great deal of promise, there are limitations to the process and the circumstances in which all of the abovementioned benefits are realized are relatively rare.
The limitations of PB are as follows:
- Limited participation of the marginalized. For some residents, especially the very poor, participation is an impossibility given the time and resource commitments required. Other residents participate in the PB process with limited objectives such as getting a street paved or repairing a school. Once completed, many participants do not return.
- The need for strong government support. PB requires a strong commitment from the government, especially the mayor. Without the government’s support, expectations set by the PB process are rarely met, and the relationship between the government and the population can be harmed in the process.
- Limited scope. PB sacrifices long-term planning to short-term gains given that most demands of citizens are immediate.
- Thinking local, acting local. PB tends to prioritize local issues and ignore regional, national or global issues.
- Process hijacking. While PB is in its ideal form, highly inclusive and open, the process can easily be hijacked by governments, politically active citizens, or elites within the community to serve their own interests.
(See Wampler 2007 and Souza 2006).
Avritzer, Leonardo. 2010. Living Under Democracy: Participation and its Impact on the Living Conditions of the Poor. Latin American Research Review, Latin American Studies Association.
Shah, Anwar. 2007. “Overview.” Participatory Budgeting.Edited by Anwar Shah. World Bank: Washington, DC.
Souza, Marcelo Lopes de. 2006. Together with the state, despite the state, against the state: Social movements as ‘critical urban planning’ agents. City, Vol10:3. December
Wampler, Brian. 2007. “A Guide to Participatory Budgeting.” Participatory Budgeting.Edited by Anwar Shah. World Bank: Washington, DC.
Published on June 23, 2013