Participatory amendments in Brazil: towards more citizen influence in public budgeting

It is no doubt that governments are constantly facing a strong contestation of their decisions. The past two decades have been market by a constant struggle to open governments, to make them more accountable to citizens and in some ways also more participatory. Since the Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 efforts towards making public governance more open and permeable have gained attention, especially regarding public budget decision-making processes. After all, in modern economies, public budgeting is the central institution in managing the administrative state where citizens demands are prioritized, performed and accounted. Public budgeting and its stages of formulation, execution and control are constantly object of study inside and outside academic community, however, in relation to the institutional mechanisms of citizen participation in public budgets, studies have focused primarily on describing and analyzing initiatives to open the decision-making process in the executive branch, thus, creating a gap in literature in relation to the other stages of the budget cycle. Therefore, in order to fulfill this literature gap and contribute to the repertoire of legislative participatory initiatives, the paper describes a case in which a congressman created a mechanism to gather citizens opinions and preferences before allocating the money that each elected politician has to amend the Brazilian budgetary bill. The theory of participatory democracy is then used to analyze how and to what extent citizens can participate in the budgetary process in both cases. Finally, understanding participatory mechanisms related to individual amendments to the public budget is important since this type of allocation of resources by congresspeople has been associated historically with corruption, unethical behaviors and as political currency, with politicians using it in exchange for favors from the executive branch and for votes from citizens who have benefited from the actions carried out with the resources. Thus, the study also investigates whether this type of initiatives enhances responsiveness and accountability of public policies to which the money was transferred.

Ariane Roder Figueira /COPPEAD - UFRJ