Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trysts with participatory governance

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Questions like how and why Iain Bruce got attracted to the budget-making process of a little-known city would only invite a shrug of the shoulders from him. That he happened to be in Brazil, as a correspondent of BBC, when one of its cities - Porto Alegre - was scripting revolution with its Participatory Budgeting (PB) process, might be a sound answer. The proverbial journalistic nose must have hinted to him that years later many countries would awake to the little city’s bold initiative.

Iain is not with BBC anymore, having quit the organisation some three years back. But his three-year-long sojourn in Brazil and his visits to Porto Alegre at that time have given him enough reasons to be still hailed as a ‘development journalist’. Though Iain would give out a customary smile at that description of his, he agrees that Porto Alegre had penned a new concept of development with PB.

"I was a keen observer of the PB process there, which interested me and which I studied about. There were ambiguities, obstacles, I wouldn’t call it a perfect implementation of PB. But they could take it a long way,’’ recollects Iain.

�Iain is in the city to participate in an international workshop on ‘Kerala’s Participatory Planning and Porto Alegre’s Participatory Budgeting’ jointly organised by the Institute of Social Sciences and Institute of Management in Government (IMG) on the IMG campus here.

That the two regions have lots in common with planning and budgeting is what is being revealed and discussed at the workshop. (Participatory Budgeting calls for the demands of citizens when a region prepares its budget, just the way Kerala’s local bodies prepare their annual plans. In Thiruvananthapuram, Aryanad grama panchayat is one local body which has successfully experimented with PB).

It was in the beginning of 2000 that Iain first visited Porto Alegre. That Kerala has a similar model of Participatory Planning was not known to him at that time. Now that he does, he is real keen on imbibing its spirit. Just the way he took to PB in Brazil. So much so that he documented the PB process as a film, ‘Is an other world possible’, which is to be screened at the workshop on Wednesday. He also came out with a book on the topic, ‘The Porto Alegre Alternative’.

Iain, who was in Venezuela the last three years as a freelancer, found bits of PB in several regions there too. ‘’There are community councils there which will go up to some 30,000. They form federations and they manage the local economy. It’s an interesting study, but I haven’t gone deep into it like I did in Porto Alegre,’’ he says.

Iain is presently associated with Al Jazeera TV in Doha (for the last two months). Though this is his first visit to Kerala, it might be the beginning of yet another study for him, being a student of Participatory Planning.

Source : http://ibnlive.in.com/news/trysts-with-participatory-governance/161568-60-123.html