Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre: toward a redistributive democrary

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Counter hegemonic globalisation occurs today in many forms and many settings and deals with a variety of issues from land and labour rights to sexual equality to biodiversity and the environment. This paper examines one urban experiment developed to resist the social exclusion that is an undeniable result of the globalisation process by redistributing city resources in favour of the more vulnerable social groups by means of participatory democracy. The experiment was the participatory budget established in 1989 in the city of Porto Alegre.

The first part of the paper describes basic information and the recent history of the city and its government, contextualising both within the Brazilian political system. The second part details a description of the main features of the institutions and processes of the participatory budget and of participation as well as the criteria and methodology for the distribution of resources. The third part examines the development of the participatory budget. The final part analyses the processes of the participatory budget with regards to its efficiency in redistribution, its accountability and quality of representation in a participatory democracy, the notion of dual powers and competing legitimacies and its relationship with the legislative body that formally approves budget.

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Journal Title: 
Politics and society
Vol. 26, no. 4