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Involvement of community and community-based organization (CBOs) and general peoples particularly in priority setting can be used as an effective tool for deepening democracy. Through this process, the poor and vulnerable group can raise their demand for the greater portion of the public resources. In this process, it will be visualized to them how much policy converts into outcomes on the ground. Such a budget helps to increase the perception among the citizens that they have the right to monitor how well the premised public services are delivered to them by the provider. Such an engagement also increases the level of transparency and accountability and improves the quality of governance. This, therefore, can also help improve the capacity of the state particularly that of the LGIs, in expanding the scope of participatory budgeting at the grassroots level (Rahman, 2005). However, the national government of Bangladesh is elected by the popular voting system the budgeting process is not effectively participatory. It is said that there is no little room for people’s participation at local government budgeting and not to speak of the national budgeting.

The Government of Bangladesh, UNDP, and UNCDF have jointly initiated a project titled “Sirajganj Local Government Development Fund Project” or shortly Sirajganj Project, which has been organizing participatory planning and budgeting since its inception in July 2000 with duration of five years.

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Participatory planning and budgeting events take place at the UP level of Sirajganj district. Also, The Hunger Project initiated some participatory events on the proposed budget by organizing a one-day open budget session at 25 UPs all over Bangladesh in 2002 and at 27 UPs in 2003 (UN, 2005). The project created huge excitement among the local people who lived at the periphery of the country and away from the development innovations and participation in the decision making level.  The program was a component of a project called “Transparency and Accountability of Union Parishad” financed by the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE)-Bangladesh. The local people present in the event opined that this type of innovation can really make transparent and accountable, especially those UPs that are located in the periphery. However, stimulated by the success of the program Agragati Sangstha later initiated open budget hearings at seven UPs including Ramjan Nagar Union in the same district in June-July 2004 with the active support of the UPs. They also helped formulate five-year plans for these Unions, which is, in fact, the best output among the participatory budgeting exercises all over Bangladesh. The process has been continuing and gathering stronger ground with the passage of time (Rahman, 2005). Without these few exceptions, most of the Ups and almost all of the municipalities do not have people’s participation in budgeting. The study reveals the under the existing system there is hardly any scope to participate in budget making process for the beneficiaries and other stakeholders.

 

Participatory Budgeting and its Framework in Bangladesh:

Participatory Budgeting involves the direct participation of citizens and civil society. It is a decision making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiates over the distribution of public resources (Shah; 2007).

It also actively engages local government actors such as the mayor, the local council, the treasurer, and the directors of the local finance, urban and rural planning, and local services departments. Participatory Budgeting does not transfer funds from the local government to local communities. In PB, communities work together with the local government to agree on how to spend limited local government resources more effectively (Srinivasan, 2006).

 

The purpose of this part is to discuss the framework for participatory budgeting in Bangladesh, which fabricate the legal and institutional frameworks, as well as the budget cycle. The legal and institutional frameworks are discussed because they are considered as the sources of the participatory framework in Bangladesh

Participatory budgeting refers to the involvement of citizens in identifying local priorities, policies, programs, and projects that require allocation of resources. Participatory budgeting provides the opportunity for people participation in the allocation of resources to priority social policies, and for them to monitor public spending and policy performance. As such, local constituents gain ownership of the policies/programs/projects for local development; thus, they are committed to supporting local government unit (LGU) social policies and development initiatives.

 

The Constitution of Bangladesh (1972) unconditionally emphasizes the need for establishing the local government with a representative character (Chapter 3, Article 59). It also implies direct participation of the people in constituting the local body and in managing the affairs of such bodies.

Local government, as a political institution to ensure public participation in development activities, despite the Constitution of Bangladesh has assured the ownership of the citizens of the country. Bangladesh for instance, has power for local determination, but lack the financial resources to provide locally determined services.”Participatory approaches to public expenditure management refer to the range of methods, tools, and choices that introduce/involve ordinary citizens and civil society in general into the process of allocation, tracking disbursement, and monitoring the use of public resource” (Thindwa, 2004: 6). They contribute to transparency where people have access to public information; efficient service delivery and needs fulfillment.Notwithstanding
constitutional promise of ownership of the Republic by citizens of the country,
the decision-making power has always been outside the sphere of the common
people. The rules and procedures have not been reformed in the light of this
citizen proprietorship. Therefore, hopes and aspirations of citizens get hardly
reflected in the development agenda of the government, both national and local. Participation
is not sufficient in every sphere and it fails to involve meaningful dialogue
that affects public decision making. Civil society can play an imperative role
in improving participation. In the light of the previous findings, it is
obvious that in the context of local government (Hossain,
2014), it is not clear what the participation process is meant to
achieve. The study found that citizens are incapable of contributing
productively to policy-making.  In
Bangladesh, poorest are not getting benefit from the service because resources
do not deliver the results where increasing resources is not the only solution
there need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public expenditure
that means improving accountability. Empowerment and poverty reduction go
together; discrimination and inclusion need to direct attention, where access
to information, accountability, inclusion and local organizational capacity are
the key elements of empowerment. Supply side initiatives are complementary for
accountability when building links with formal accountability mechanisms are
pertinent. There are some critical issues of success; the political culture and
context, media, the capacity of state and civil society and the synergy of
civil-society. Below,
a number of policy requirements for successful implementation of a
participatory budgeting process are highlighted. 

Political
will from the ground of national and local level government. Local
politicians must feel that broader participation resolves their problem
through identifying resources.
Establishment
of appropriate institutional structure of local authority with flexible
and legal framework for local government budgeting process and the number
and the diversity of the population.
Involvement
of citizen from initial stage of budget design through dialogue because
early engagement of citizens in the municipal budgeting process is likely
to be more effective in influencing decisions, building trust and reducing
skepticism about municipalities, empowering citizens.
Raising
awareness and understanding about participatory budgeting through
innovative communications such as the organizing civic meetings, use of
cartoons and popular language. Attention is given to using a variety of
media to communicate including local radio and the internet. Publicity is
very important to disseminate information. Creating an attractive style
for communicating about participatory budgeting is needed to make people
aware of how to participate. Local newspapers and use of council
newsletters to communicate directly with residents.

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