Speaking on behalf of the poor?

Budget NGOs have often struggled to involve the wider public directly in government budgeting processes. Instead, they frequently end up speaking to the government on behalf of poor and disadvantaged communities. This has limited their impact, argues Vivek Ramkumar in the most recent IBP Brief. Ramkumar is the author of the best-selling Our Money, Our Responsibility: A Citizens’ Guide to Monitoring Government Expenditures.

Ramkumar argues further that budget hearings at the local level can give hundreds of thousands of citizens – perhaps even millions – the opportunity to participate directly in budget-making and budget evaluation processes.

If budget NGOs promote the adoption of these systems successfully, they can truly change the nature of governance in their countries. Challenging as it may be, this is the price that budget advocacy organizations will have to pay before they can truly claim to be promoting transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in budgeting.

This brief discusses innovative examples from Brazil and India of strategies to help ensure that citizens directly participate in budget processes at the local level.

What do you think? Is it unacceptable to speak on the behalf of the poor? Are practical local budget hearings practical?

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