Orçamento participativo (OP) or ‘participatory budget’ finds a positive mention in ‘Citizen Leadership: Deepening democratic accountability in India, Brazil and South Africa,’ edited by Vikas Jha, Bhavita Vaishnava, and Kaustuv Kanti Bandyopadhyay (www.academicfoundation.com).
OP, as one learns from an essay in the book, has made considerable contribution in allocating budgets for housing in Diadema, Brazil. Instituted in 1994, with the aim of discussing the priorities in the municipal government’s annual budget, it has helped in fulfilling the demands of the inhabitants of the city’s different neighbourhoods, inform the essay’s authors Patrícia L. N. Cobra and Lizandra Serafim.
They describe how the OP process started with the convening of assemblies in the neighbourhoods where the inhabitants’ demands were discussed and representatives for the higher (regional) plenaries were selected. These representatives discussed the communities’ demands with the Mayor on a monthly basis, and the demands were later taken up by the municipal government. Since the priority of the inhabitants was housing, it received an increased budgetary allocation; and many construction projects for the urbanisation of favelas (slums) were deliberated upon in the assemblies of the OP and defined as priority investments to be made with municipal resources.
In the authors’ view, the participatory budget helped not only the completion of projects related to infrastructure and housing but also the training of the communities in the participatory processes. The authors add that the close collaboration between the state and the people through OP laid the ground for the use of participatory spaces for dialogue and negotiation. Importantly, as the essay documents, the state played the role of mobiliser, capacity-builder, and envisioner, rather than dominating the participatory spaces.