Participatory budgeting in Córdoba : a policy approach to strengthening democracy in Latin America




Kihm, Hadyn Lindsey

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Participatory budgeting (PB) is a governing mechanism whereby citizens decide how to allocate part of a local budget. It promises greater accountability, efficiency, and citizen participation in the budgetary process with minimal cost and effort. The process is in place in hundreds of cities in Latin America, but what is unclear in the scholarship is what factors and pre-conditions determine its success. This case study of Córdoba, Argentina is useful for analyzing whether a consideration of pre-conditions is useful in predicting success.

This study isolates the primary influential factors to determine why only 10% of projects have been completed and participation rates are declining by: examining the structure, funding, history, and political and social context of participatory budgeting; comparing Córdoba to other similar countries that have adopted participatory budgeting; conducting key informant interviews; and participating in PB workshops.

Of the pre-conditions identified in the study, waning political will and political distractions most influenced the evolution of PB in Córdoba. Despite these setbacks, key individuals both inside the government, such as Director of Participatory Budgeting Jorge Guevara, and outside, such as the members of the Grupo Promotor de Participación Ciudadana (GPPC), operated as a web to generate social capital where institutional knowledge and political will were lacking. The presence of such a web suggests that given the opportunity, PB in Córdoba may yet improve and thrive.

I conclude by recommending a strategic planning methodology as a means for cities to independently evaluate their participatory budgeting performance.



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