620.1 Participatory community governance: Reinforcing or redressing urban inequality?

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Benjamin GOLDFRANK , International Relations, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ
Proponents of participatory local governance, mainly focused on Latin America, often claim that among its many positive attributes is a focus on ensuring that the poorest, least privileged, most excluded citizens receive more resources and attention from city government.  Many European and North American critics, by contrast, contend that the already included, better educated, higher status residents tend to be more engaged politically and to reap the benefits of participatory schemes.  This paper examines the effects of one of the most celebrated and replicated forms of participatory community governance, participatory budgeting (PB), on urban inequality.  When one examines the empirical record regarding the distribution of resources in cities that use PB, one finds that neither the proponents nor the critics of participatory governance are completely vindicated.  While in some cases, PB does correlate with the reduction of inequality and the inclusion of the excluded, in many cases it does not.  Are these divergent outcomes a result of who participates, as some critics imply?  Or are they a result of who governs, of how PB is designed, or of other factors identified in the growing literature on participatory governance?  The paper examines this puzzle through two sets of comparisons.  The first is a detailed analysis of distribution of public municipal resources in Caracas, Montevideo, and Porto Alegre, where reduction of inequality occurred in the latter two cities but not the former, even though all three cities were governed by left parties with a redistributive agenda who were pioneers in implementing PB.  The second is a broader evaluation of PB experiences in Latin American and European cities that often claim to be modeled on Porto Alegre.