Free Custom Essay on «Citizen Participation in the Budget Process»

Citizen Participation in the Budget Process

Review of the Issue

The question concerning the participation of citizens in the process of the formation and disposition of the budget has attracted significant attention and aroused discussions over the last decades. It is a quite important question because the competent budgeting can ensure the welfare of the population and provide the material assistance to the socially vulnerable groups. There are many different opinions on this matter because this issue has controversial nature. There is no doubt that this question has both pluses and minuses. Opponents of this issue tend to believe that the participation of citizens may cause a number of obstacles in the budget process as it can be dangerous due to the emergence of the confusion. Besides, not all citizens are competent in this matter, so their participation can be fraught with problems and losses. On the other hand, supporters point out that citizen participation can increase the level of democratization and inspire more confidence in government authorities. Moreover, each person has a right to know how and in what ways the budget money is spent because they form this capital. Either way, the issue of citizen participation in the budget process deserves special attention.

Background Information

Interest in the issue of participation in budgeting is linked to repeated occurrences of problems with the satisfaction of the basic needs at the expense of budget funds while achieving the marked growth of the economy. Such a way to regain the trust of citizens is becoming increasingly popular as it allows harmonizing the goals, objectives, and budget plans that the authorities have with those needs that emerge among local residents. The implementation of this step should fully comply with the law to be properly organized and have the form of implementation that would meet the requirements and specifics of a certain settlement. Ensuring high positive effect on the participation of citizens in the budgeting process requires adherence to certain principles. The main of them are the provision of citizens with reasonably higher power and authority, the maximum transparency of government activities, and the possibility of a fair redistribution of resources for social needs (Ebdon & Franklin, 2004).

When citizens have a chance to be involved in the budget process, it makes the work of the government more understandable to them. People are slowly beginning to understand the specifics of this work; thus, their level of confidence in the authorities grows immediately. Moreover, while researching the citizens, their needs, and level of satisfaction with the services with which they are provided, the errors associated with disability and incorrect information may occur. Therefore, one of the reasons citizens should participate in the process of formation and disposal of budgetary funds is that they know precisely their basic needs. This feedback can help to create an adequate budget and edit the articles on its costs to match reality. The active citizenship feedback makes it possible to correct the process of budgeting at all stages, including the primary ones, which will direct the budgetary cash flows in the right diections. Furthermore, knowing where the money is spent, people will become more responsible for the issue of payment of taxes. In addition, it is worth saying that the results of the research and experiments related to citizen participation in this process indicate that the average efficiency of the cash management improved because citizens have a practical interest in obtaining the best results.

Justification of the Selection of the Problem

This problem was selected for analysis due to its relevance and contradictory, controversial nature, which makes it even more interesting. The relevance lies in the fact that government regulation is a key factor of government’s influence on the state of the social sector. Consequently, the way it is organized and meets the realities directly affects the quality of life and moods in the society, in general. In turn, its ambiguity is associated with the presence of pros and cons. Hence, only a comprehensive analysis of all the parties will allow coming to one conclusion.

Furthermore, it relates to important questions on both the state and local scales. Citizen participation in budgeting is a step that allows the government to get closer to ordinary people by partly entrusting to them the important function of the disposition of the budgetary resources to which they are directly related. It can also be understood as manipulation for obtaining the favor of the electorate. At the local level, citizens will have the opportunity to influence the way the tax deductions will work for their benefit. Moreover, they will be able to set priorities in the process of meeting the social needs because they will know what is necessary for them. In other words, this issue is essential, and it should be disclosed since it concerns a question of finding a compromise between the two sides of the state structure with a purpose of achieving the desired results of each party (Ebdon & Franklin, 2006).

Common and Desired Practices

Today, the most common practices of citizen participation in budgeting include public meetings, civil advisory committees, and working groups, the activity of which carries the respective directions. Such practices are used with the aim of disseminating the information rather than involving citizens in the actual process of budgetary matters. The authorities thus make public reports but, in most cases, it does not allow citizens to submit their proposals and amendments. That is a one-way communication that is not an effective way of cooperation. It should be stressed that the openness of information and its public access is a step forward to a mutual trust. It assists in the development of an understanding of the citizens of those things and facts that occur in the context of the budget issue (Zhang & Yang, 2009).

Furthermore, it should be noted that now one can use such practice as the conduction of the discussion of the budget process with the help of digital technology, namely by using the Internet application. It makes it possible to engage in conversation the maximum number of people, without distracting them from the work process (Vermont Workers’ Center, 20012). This practice is reminiscent of two-way communication, but it is only a means to obtain information and express personal opinions about it. In this case, there is no possibility of direct influence on the actual process and its correction.

Concerning the desired practices, in general, they should eliminate those drawbacks that exist. One of the desired practices could be the establishment of working groups of citizens who wish to be included. They will develop their proposals and formulate demands, which later will be presented to the budgetary authorities for consideration. After processing all the proposals, people will be able to vote for the already revised budget project. Moreover, it is a possible option for the practice in which the authorities can allocate a certain reasonable amount of budgetary funds to representatives of public organizations. According to the general decision and the personal discretion of the community, citizens themselves will be able to spend these funds for the benefit of the settlement where they live.

Shortcomings of the Citizen Participation in the Budget Process

As already mentioned, the involvement of citizens in the budgeting process has several disadvantages. The main of them is the introduction of disorganization in the process in the event of poor coordination of the actions of citizens and authorities. There is also a danger that citizens wishing to participate will be incompetent in the financial issues but, in this case, they can simply make suggestions regarding investment objects without addressing the money matters. Another drawback can be the desire of citizens in such a way to solve their personal problems that are not within the scope of the community's interests. Moreover, it is worth considering the fact of lack of time and apathy among many members of the community, which makes the representation incomplete because it displays a partial picture (Kill, 2013).

Recommendations and Conclusions

To implement successfully the practice of citizen participation in the budgeting process, it is possible to offer the conduction of the analysis of successful international practices. The important and necessary step is also to identify clearly spheres of activity and scope of the involved citizens. In addition, it is necessary to conduct a selection among the citizens to understand who and in what area can be engaged. Another recommendation is to ensure transparency and openness of the process, as well as feedback which will report the results and the principal problematic and the positive aspects (Government Finance Officers Associations February, 2009).

When citizens have the opportunity to become part of the mechanism that regulates the organization of the budget process, many questions and untrusted attitude towards the authorities may disappear. Realizing that their taxes are used for their intended purposes, namely for the public good, people become more civil responsible. Summing up, one can say that it is reasonable that citizens can be involved in the budgeting process, but it should be properly organized so as not to cause the manifestations of anarchy and chaos.

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