Pune citizens to decide how the municipality spends money

By V. Vijayalakshmi, IANS

Pune : If all goes well, Pune’s residents will become the first in India to play a major role in deciding how the city municipality should spend its budget.

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A meeting of all political parties will be called this week to deliberate on the path-breaking plan of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) plan. Once the municipality’s Standing Committee approves it, PMC will go ahead.

It will be the first time citizens in any Indian city will have a say on how the tax payers’ money should be allocated by the elected representatives.

The idea is based on an initiative that began in Brazil almost two decades ago.

Amrish Galinde, chief accountant of PMC, told IANS: “The political parties will be briefed about participatory budgeting.”

PMC has planned an orientation programme on participatory budgeting for officers in all 144 wards.

Pune, with a population of 4.5 million, is India’s eight largest and Maharashtra’s second largest city. Located 150 km from Mumbai, the ancient city is also called the cultural capital of Maharashtra.

Collaborating with PMC in the project will be Janwani, a programme of the Maharatta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture.

Janwani official Ranjit Gadgil said that the first full participatory budgeting process was developed in Porto Alegre, a city in Brazil, in 1989.

“Thousands of residents there decide how to allocate part of the municipal budget. Residents and elected budget delegates identify spending priorities and vote on which priorities to implement,” he explained.

Janavani will use PMC’s facilities to train thousands of ward officers about the programme. At a later stage, citizens too will get trained.

Each ward will submit its budget to the financial department of PMC.

Since its emergence in Porto Alegre, participatory budgeting has spread to hundreds of Latin American cities and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.

In some cities, participatory budgeting has been applied for school, university and public housing budgets.

In Europe, towns and cities in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Britain have initiated participatory budgeting. It has also been implemented in Canada with public housing, neighbourhood groups and public schools in Toronto, Guelph and West Vancouver.