An article in today’s Royal Gazette bears the title “BDA on finances: ‘There is a better way’” and yet the quotes from ‘The Alliance’ only contain criticisms of the PLP’s budgeting and no actual details on what they would do differently that would be any better. It’s another repeat of the story where they make nice airy statements with no tangible value. Further, their criticism amounts to being no different than the same criticisms we’ve heard from the UBP the last few years. There may be ‘a better way’ but this writer has yet to hear any evidence of ‘The Alliance’ knowing what it actually is.
If we really wanted to talk about revolutionary changes to our budgeting we could examine participatory budgeting as a means to achieve greater involvement by the people and encourage greater accountability. What is participatory budgeting?
Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, in which ordinary residents decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to present their demands and priorities for improvement, and influence through discussions and negotiations the budget allocations made by their municipalities.
Participatory budgeting is usually characterized by several basic design features: identification of spending priorities by community members, election of budget delegates to represent different communities, facilitation and technical assistance by public employees, local and higher level assemblies to deliberate and vote on spending priorities, and the implementation of local direct-impact community projects.
Various studies have suggested that participatory budgeting results in more equitable public spending, higher quality of life, increased satisfaction of basic needs, greater government transparency and accountability, increased levels of public participation (especially by marginalized or poorer residents), and democratic and citizenship learning.
Participatory budgeting is an example of an idea of things successfully being done elsewhere that we could try here and yet all we’re getting is the same old, “they’re doing a horrible job but we could do better” line. As usual it comes without the evidence or examples that demonstrate that there is any truth that they could actually be any better or do things any different.
If ‘The Alliance’ really wanted to stand out they could look for ideas like participatory budgeting or other novel ideas out there that are new, different and provide greater opportunity for involvement of the people. They could adopt them not only as a tenant for election, but do more to demonstrate their potential by being the change they want to bring. They could show us the power of participatory budgeting by making it a core element of how their party budgets themselves.