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Participatory budgeting in Brazil nets positive outcomes

In Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and more than 100 other Brazilian cities, citizen influence over municipal government is not limited to the voting booth. Residents shape local decisions through “participatory budgeting,” an institution that has flourished in Brazil for more than two decades. 

Writing in The Washington Post, political scientists Brian Wampler and Mike Touchton discuss their recent research, which concludes that participatory budgeting has produced many benefits. Municipalities that have used the system for more than eight years have significantly lower rates of infant mortality than other cities. They also spend more on education and sanitation.

Cities in Brazil volunteer to adopt participatory budgeting. Under the approach, citizens decide during public meetings how city funds — usually between 5 and 15 percent of total budgets — ​should be spent. Over the past 20 years, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre residents have determined the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects. “This is not enough to radically change how cities spend limited resources,” Wampler and Touchton write, “but it is enough to generate meaningful change.”

The full study on Brazil’s participatory institutions by Wampler and Touchton is available here, in Sage’s Comparative Political Studies Journal.
Washington Post

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