It is appropriate to perceive the participatory budgeting (PB) as a supplement to current's representative democracy rather than its alternative. It is based on the restoration of the public dialogue between equal and free citizens, on the basis of which democratic decisions are made. Participatory budgeting can be considered as a deliberative tool.
Participatory budgets have begun to be applied since 1989 in Brazil (the legendary Porto Alegre town) and then spread over the American continent, especially to the USA. Over the last 15 years, they have been established in Europe (England, France, Lisbon, Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, Bonn, Sevilla, Cordoba, Rome, Scandinavia, etc.). Currently, the PBs operate in 1 500 cities worldwide. There are also up to 100 cities in Poland (Warsaw, Lodz, the city of Dabrowa Gornicza as a shining example etc.). Within the Visegrad Group, except for Prague and Warsaw, PBs are in the process also in Bratislava and many other towns.
New democracies since the 1990s have been tasked with launching a process of delegation of power to local governments, which has not always been done in a flexible way. In the post-communist states, there was a weakening of the state centrality in favor of decision-making procedures at the local level. This was necessary to create a scope for such mechanisms as a participatory budgeting.
The gatherings of the citizens within the process of participatory budget-making is also a great and simple opportunity to build a community – the people get to know their neighbors and may feel more bound to their town or village.
Since Belarus lacks the institution of participatory budgeting, we will concentrate on studying the experience of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia in order to take their experience into account when establishing this institution in Belarus.
Let us have a look at the way how participatory budget is financed, what is the general mechanism o f its implementation and which projects are suitable for being covered by PB.