To increase government transparency and reduce corruption while implementing the World Bank's decentralization policy recommendation, Madagascar implemented participatory budgeting initiatives in nine municipalities.
Problems and Purpose
Modern governments are constantly trying to improve their own governance practices as well as citizen's views of these practices. To do this, one initiative which has been implemented by many governments has been Participatory Budgeting (PB). In Madagascar, the idea was introduced by the World Bank in an attempt to resurrect the failing decentralization policy advocated by the bank in the 2000’s. PB was initiated in 9 municipalities, and has now spread to over 159 municipalities as of 2011 and is no longer solely funded by the World Bank. The project was design to increase government transparency in a country suffering from dictatorial practices and corruption.
With citizens set to become directly involved in both the decision making and implementation process, PB was the ideal solution to the Madagascan government's failings. However, the initiative's success went much further including regime longevity, improvement of perceived legitimacy, increased citizen education and skill, and the greater transparency of community mining revenues. A notable drawback was the lack of information regarding decisions, meaning that national-level transparency remained an issue.
Background History and Context
After the colonial wars between France and United Kingdom, Madagascar was finally considered a French colony. Following a brief internal conflict with French forces, Madagascar chose in 1958 to gain autonomy from the French government with aims of achieving total independence by 1960 under Tsiranana.
Ever since the abandonment of a socialist government in the mid-1990s Madagascar has been on the road of economic recovery. Although it has been on the right track, the country has suffered extensively from changing weather conditions including cyclones at the turn of the millennia. Since the beginning of decentralisation in 1990, Madagascar created 1557 municipalities within 22 regions. However, as SAHA  reported, this decentralisation did not at first improve the quality of lives or include those that had been previously excluded, a key goal of the original policy.
The switch of government to a more western style has led to the World Bank funding projects in 9 different localities within Madagascar. It is seen to be working as a process of participation as approximately 3% of citizens of voting age took part in the development of PB, the same percentage as Brazil. One of the most impressive is seen in the largest city, Antanarivo where 20% of its budget has been invested in participatory budgeting. In this instance, the water services in rural areas where much infrastructure is needed provided the local communities with the power to effect change that would benefit them. Water supplies were then allocated to many of the rural settlements.
It has since then proceeded to evolve and produce a number of participatory governance procedures. One of the most productive participatory budgeting has been within the mining industry that provides royalties obtained by mining to be directly paid to local communities, receiving the first payment in 2009.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities.
The participatory budgeting projects started with three pilot projects in nine municipalities, which was funded and supported by the World Bank. Both rural and urban municipalities were chosen as well as a mixture between mining and non-mining municipalities. It originated from a long-term problem with very low municipal revenues and as a means of moving towards decentralisation, as mentioned above. Further, the concept is used to create more transparency, strengthen accountability at the local level and include the citizens living in mining municipals in the debates on mining royalties. The previous revenues from the municipalities equalled enough to barely cover the fixed costs. In addition, the collection of local land tax was at a very low level. This has all improved with participatory budgeting from eight to fifty-two percent in the Ambalavo municipality as the prime example.
After the optimistic results received from 9 municipalities, the Malagasy Government through the Local Development Fund expanded the Participatory Budgeting exercise to 159 municipalities in 2011. Following that, for 2013, a scale-up phase on 104 new experiences. This expansion has seen more municipalities deciding to continue the projects themselves by devoting money from their own budgets rather than receiving external funding. I.e. the city Antanarivo, which later allocated twenty percent of its investment budget to PB.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
A self-selected sampling method was used in gaining participants in Madagascar’s localities. In 2008 participatory budgeting activities were integrated in Madagascar’s 9 localities, 6 of which were mining regions. This can be explained that despite the fact that the project development objectives were to improve the efficiency and transparency of government and selected public services in Madagascar.. They were also interested in improving and strengthening transparency and governance in mining.
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Focus here will be on the original World Bank initiative and not the current national led initiatives brought in by the Madagascan government. For the design’s implementation, the initiative embodied three main components. The first was the citizen engagement in community evaluation of services which aimed to establish operational Municipal Costive Organs (MCO’s). By having the community communicate over information and strategies the MCO’S could be created and trained in social accountability and transparency, as well as being adapted for key services in health, education and land. It was also decided that the members were to be trained in techniques of budget and action plan analysis because from this they could organize various public discussions on land issues, thus further increasing participation.
The second component was to strengthen the accountability mechanisms and transparency in municipal planning. By strengthening the transparency in budget preparation and investment in the target sectors they hoped to increase local tax revenue, which was a key issue for the areas. This was to be done by taking known data about citizen engagement and using it to interpret and design a new program for a transparent service for budgeting. Tools to integrate citizen’s feedback into the service improvement plans were also put in place as having constant contact with the public was deemed an essential focal point.
The last component was scaling up at regional and national levels. This was important as it meant the decentralization of budget allocating mechanisms and institutionalizing the project achievements. By improving the information flow between local and national government levels with established institutional agreements between the project and key sectors with Madagascar Transparency and Social Accountability Network representatives. Lessons learnt were identified and the knowledge generated was shared with the public.
After the plan of how to implement the project had been designed, the next part of the process was to negotiate and source funding. The Financing took a great deal of deliberation and ultimately the instrument used was the Recipient Executed Trust Fund Grant sourced by the Global Partnership for Social Accountability, housed within the World Bank. Due to this, the project was subject to World Bank procedures in terms of preparation and supervision of the grants. The project was estimated to be US$700,000 with an additional supervision government granted by the World Bank of US$20,000.
The timing of funding was to be agreed between SAHA, the NGO coordinating the project and the World Bank in accordance to the schedule of the project, and thus grants were released in accordance to milestones. They did this by integrating activities as pilots into the three components, with funding released at the start of each one. The components were applied to a number of areas including both rural and urban communities as well as those that were mining and non-mining. The pilots started in the more rural areas and resulted in Antanarivo allocating a large proportion of its budget to the initiative, as mentioned above.
The project was to be coordinated by the SAHA, a NGO that was responsible for operational activity, monitoring and evaluation. The project was designed so that it would develop partnerships with Madagascar Transparency and Social Accountability Network, which would in turn train citizens in all municipalities on participative evaluation tools . This meant giving them the tools to evaluate and the ability to assist with policy dialogue so that they were truly involved in the project.
There were a number of institutional roles designed in order for the project to run smoothly, created by the larger organizations. An Inter-ministerial committee was created to feed results into the decentralization process which, in turn, was chaired by the Ministry of Decentralization. There was a World Bank Social Accountability Program that’s aim was to design, train and evaluate the data collected from the project. The Swiss Cooperation, SAHA, was also in charge of day to day quality control, meaning that the actual implementation of PB decisions were central to the methodological framework in Madagascar.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The participatory budgeting process in Madagascar brought with it a variety of outcomes. An average of 3% of citizens were involved during the large consultation meetings that set investment priorities. Although this figure sounds low, it is higher than the level seen in Brazil when Brazil was at the same stage. Citizen participation in the democratic process can be seen as a key result of the innovation, as in the Madagascan context, their participation has been stifled throughout history. Also, a clear result of the innovation was in that in mining communes, there was a better knowledge among the population of expected mining revenues. In non-mining communities there was a planned increase in efforts regarding the distribution of information, a clear result of the PB process. Non-mining areas, however, saw increases in own-generated tax revenues compared to mining areas where tax revenues stayed the same.
According to a World Bank report by Keener and Bowen (2010), PB across the country showed good instances of citizens involved in the implementation of works. This provides a clear accountability path for citizens, where projects can be directly scrutinised by the people who advocated them in the first place. Caution is expressed in Madagascar, however, over the fragility of this citizen involvement in the implementation process. The countries political history is characterised by the president having near imperial power with powerful companies manipulating sectors to gain substantial profits. Therefore, this citizen involvement in the implementation of PB requires reinforcement by the government in subsequent cycles, as the citizen involvement could be fragile and open to manipulation. By keeping citizens involved, PB can go a long way in negating private interests which capture the projects to favour themselves disproportionately.
A clear effect on citizens themselves can be seen in research conducted on citizen’s opinions of their given mayors. Results showed a significant improvement in citizen’s perception of mayors taking their opinions into account when PB has been conducted in some way in their region. An average of 11% of citizens perceived their mayors of taking their opinions into account without PB, compared to 29% when PB had been implemented in some way in the region. The effect that PB has on citizen’s views of government in Madagascar is therefore a very positive one. Another outcome which affects citizens is that increased focus in the Madagascan context, post the first round of PB, was on training citizens and CSO’s at the commune level. This was on the back of mainly a practical investment focus in the first round of PB, neglecting other areas of PB that are of significant importance if projects are going to be successful. The point made above regarding tax revenues is relevant here. Increased tax revenues in non-mining communes, where capacity is generally low, could point to the fact that PB projects encourage people to pay more taxes as they are seeing the positive results of their monetary investment in their community. PB seems to directly alter Madagascan citizen’s behaviour in a positive way.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Participatory budgeting has only recently been implemented within Madagascar and appears to be influencing policy in the some of the localities. The issue that arises with regards to PB is whether has enough weight to continue to have an impact even when a change of government occurs, as has been seen in some countries who also implement participatory budgeting at the local level. In order to achieve this, PB must act as an indispensable tool between the local populations and the local government. The levels of participation must continue to rise and expansion of PB with regards to other issues must continue to be developed otherwise it could be seen as a waste of time and money.
A number of criticisms can be levelled with the case due to the way in which it was conducted. As the public discussions were not compulsory it is likely that those who did participate would have likely been politically minded anyway. An important part of the project was to educate the local population politically. However, with much of the budget and time being spent on this and those who did not already feel passionate about politics and democracy not participating, the dissemination of democratic values across the polis was / is unlikely to occur. This ultimately means that any information collected from the various discussions that were conducted cannot be taken to be conclusive or representative of the population. There were no measures to ensure that those involved were socio-economically diverse, an important factor considering that there was debate to decide who was deemed the poorest in society.
Looking at this example in a more theoretical sense, the PB project is governance driven democratisation in action; through different avenues within governance we can innovate new ideas to keep the process democratic. PB is just one example of a way in which governance can be democratised (Warren 2009). Due to the way in which Madagascan citizens are involved in both the decision making and implementation stages, action through PB ‘re-democratises’ the governance of Madagascar. PB instiutionalises democratic ideals both within its design (free and fair voting, freedom of speech) and amongst citizens (respect for others views). This is particularly important for a country that has had leadership across its history that favoured dictatorial methods.
One could argue that the Madagascan participatory budgeting projects is an example of deliberative democracy, although not a perfect form. A key factor to the participatory budgeting is deliberating to reach mutual understanding, which is also what a deliberate democracy builds on. However, it is reasonable to assume that the citizens participating already have some sort of a preconceived idea about their preferences, which might not lead to an impartial deliberation. Further, given the country’s previous history – an issue would be that citizens preferences could be manipulated, thus the legitimacy of the preferences might be questioned.
The PB ideal goes completely against Schumpeter’s elitist view of democracy, adding weight to a participatory form of democracy against the elitist view. ‘Party and machine politicians are simply the response to the fact that the electoral mass is incapable of action other than a stampede’. [15, p.283] Schumpeter also argues that entire nations are an ‘unworkable committee’ therefore there is less incentive to engage.[15, p.261]
PB shows how ordinary citizens can both make decisions without causing a ‘stampede’ and that they can come together to produce real change in their respective areas. The elitist view of democracy does not hold when looking at PB; citizens are competent enough to work together to produce dynamic results for projects in their respective regions. A lack of political competence and interest is a threat to democracy (Schumpeter’s concern) but Pateman’s (1970) work understanding that democratic malaise could be a function of a given context is key to understanding PB’s benefits. Participation in this manner fosters the very qualities needed for democracies to thrive. As individuals learn of wider matters outside of themselves they become aware that to be successful in succeeding their own goals they need to be understanding of wider matters also. PB, theoretically therefore, can counter democratic malaise and competence in an effective way with this being clearly relevant in the Madagascan context.
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