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Challenges in the Adoption of Participatory Budgeting in Taiwan: A Perspective of Budgetary Politics.

Challenges in the Adoption of Participatory Budgeting in Taiwan: A Perspective of Budgetary Politics. Wei-Ning Wu Doctoral Student Department of Public Administration, University of North Texas
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Challenges in the Adoption of Participatory Budgeting in Taiwan: A Perspective of Budgetary Politics. Wei-Ning Wu Doctoral Student Department of Public Administration, University of North Texas Wei-Feng Tzeng Doctoral Student Department of Political Science, University of North Texas Paper prepared for presentation in the American Association for Chinese Studies (AACS) Conference Contact information: Wei-Ning Wu, 1 Abstract Increasing the representation of the public in governments is the recent trend of reinventing government. Participatory budgeting, which is an important mechanism in local budget process, is advocated by practitioners and scholars to inject citizen input into a budget process. Many current studies are the topic of participatory budgeting, but rare political influences and factors are analyzed in the usage of it. Based on the viewpoints of the public budget decision model argued by Rubin (2000), this essay mainly describes the functions of participatory budgeting, analyzes the primary political effects of participatory budgeting, and have suggestions for decreasing these political influences. The study assets that the development of participatory budgeting would limit because of potential political factors, including the concern of power relations between citizens and local governments in budget policy, politicaloriented budget process, the conflict of budget decision-making model between top-down approach and bottom-up approach, political thoughts and motives to budget policy, and potential budget actors. Keywords: Participatory Budgeting, Citizen Participation, Budget Process Introduction Citizen involvement in the governance process is derived from the Jeffersonian tradition of American politics which Jefferson advocated locally based, bottom-up government is responsive to citizens, and citizen apathy is dangerous to civic health (Berner, 2001). Since the 1980s, the U.S governments, especially state and local governments, have embarked on the movement of reinventing government. Governments have frequently encountered the representative crisis due to the unwillingness of citizen participation in public affairs. Thus, public officials and scholars have paid more attention to citizen participation in recent decades. Citizen participation is advocated to be an important tool to launch administration reforms, enhance the ability of implementing public policy, and increase the representatives in governments (Lerner 2011Miori and Russo 201; Wampler 2012). With a series of government reformations, civil consciousness about public affairs has been increasing. Gradually, adding the amount of citizen views into the budget process sufficiently becomes a main task of governments. Continuous the trend of encouraging citizen involvement, the mechanisms of citizen participation are gradually employed in local governments such as public meetings, citizen surveys, public discussions, and so on. However, the values of citizen participation, which are based on freedom, equality and individual rights, are contradictory to the traditional functions of government bureaucracies which are based on routines, hierarchical authority, expertise and impersonality. The conflicts between the structure of governments and the values of citizen participation are difficult to implement and sustain meaningful citizen participation (Callahan and Holzer, 1999; Yang 2005). In addition, because of the conflicts, the increase of political influences exists in the budget process. Furthermore, public budget has political traits (Rubin, 2000). Participatory budgeting makes the budget process more complicated and political. Most studies are mainly geared toward the explanation of the theory, the application of participatory budgeting mechanisms, and the case studies of using participatory budgeting. For instance, Cole and Caputo (1984) explore a case study of the general revenue sharing program and found that the public hearings exert instant but short-term effects, only on levels of public interest as well as citizen involvement. Berner (2001) examines the views of North Carolina 2 officials toward the state law regarding citizen participation in budgeting. She asserts that the timing is important to involve the public in the budget process, and each city and community has its own characteristics to use participation mechanisms. Callahan (2002) studies which roles citizen budget advisory committees are in the local budget process, and what the utilization and effectiveness of citizen budget committees are. Hassett and Watson (2003) research the usage of citizen surveys in the budgetary process. They find that if citizen surveys are conducted and employed properly, these surveys can assist decision-makers make more responsive to public spending and debt financing decisions. Berner and Smith (2004) study the impacts of state mandates regarding citizen participation in cities and counties. They find that states mandated public participations are not necessarily on seeking change or on communicating results, and states attitudes have a significant influence toward citizen participation in local government. Ebdon(2002) uses interviews to explore the use and effects of citizen participation in city budgeting. She finds that the major barriers to participation are budget complexity and citizen disinterest, and these barriers can be overcome by using focus groups and citizen surveys. Ebdon and Franklin (2005) identify that city structures, participants, mechanisms, and processes affect participation outcomes. In addition, Ebdon and Franklin (2006) point out that four factors, environments, process designs, mechanisms, goals and outcomes affect the development and implementation of citizen participation in the budget process. Robbins, Simonsen, and Shepard(2009) explore the citizen s views toward performance measurement in the budget process in West Hartford, Connecticut. Zhang and Yang (2009) examine city managers role in participation budgeting according to their professional dimensions, institutional environments, and individual willingness to represent citizen by conducting a case study in Florida. Their findings show managers professionalism, perceived political environment, and attitude toward participatory budgeting can be explained by local governments adaptation of participation budgeting. Understanding political influences of using citizen participation in the public budget process is important for public officers, politicians, and citizens. Current research regarding participatory budgeting fails to explore the political effects of using participatory budgeting at local level. Unlike most of the previous studies, the essay is particularly interested in political angles of using participatory budgeting in the local budget process. In addition, scholars and elected officials have advocated the initiative of participatory budgeting in local level. However, the initiative of participatory budgeting is often viewed as election slogan or a topic of political debate among election officials or elective candidate. Participatory budgeting is a political issue because budget has strong political characteristics, which may limit its development and use in local level. Hence, this essay describes the strengths of successful citizen participation, combs the literature review, uses the views of the budget decision making model to analyze the political influences and challenges of participatory budgeting in the local government budget process in Taiwan, and give suggestions of how to eliminate theses political influences. Participatory Budgeting Citizen engagement has taken on a much broader meaning and various types of participations. Yang and Callahan (2005:193) define citizen engagement as government efforts to involve citizens in administrative decision-making and management processes. Based on the argument of 2007 international association for Public Participation (IAPS), citizen engagement is 3 grouped into five level orderly based on the function and the influence of public impact on policy decisions: informing, consultant, involvement, collaboration, and empowerment. Engagement is a relationship in which the public is allowed to interact with public officials and develops different types of mutual interactions. Many governments have recently attempted to facilitate citizen voice and input through multiple participation mechanisms. Civic engagement mechanisms are the means built for determining whether the preferences of the public are able to reveal truly and efficiently to public managers. These participation mechanisms have different functions and influences on governmental efforts and the outcome of civic engagement (Michels 2011). Citizen participation in budget process is often called as participatory budgeting (Lerner 2011). For the issue about identifying participatory budgeting, scholars have different views and definitions. For instance, Franklin, Ho and Ebdon (2009) view participatory budgeting as public participation in the budget process and an important way to align budgetary decisions with differing priorities and values [ ] Through public discourse, citizens have opportunities to educate themselves about government activities and community needs, and through budget decision, promote the common welfare of a community. Zhang and Yang (2009) similarly define participatory budgeting as a process of democratic policy-making in which the government invites citizen input during the budget process and allow their influence in budget allocations. It is believed, however, that these views do not mention the influence of external environments and political factors. This study defines participatory budgeting as a mechanism that offers multiple communication ways to increase the citizens influences in the budget process. Then public managers can figure out the majority of the citizens policy preference, and the mechanism makes the budget processes and decisions more sensitive to external environment and political interactions among budget actors. Participatory budgeting occurs through deliberate action on the part of the local government in a concern for hearing from citizens. Efforts on behalf of participatory budgeting in general continue to be brought benefits to governments. These Strengths of Successful Participation Budgeting are: Democratic values. Participation budgeting actualizes the spirit of democracy. Thomas (1995, p.181) considers democratic values as the most important rewards of public involvement. The qualification of participants is not limited by age, status, occupation, well-beings, etc. Only when having time and willingness, citizens can join in any citizen participation mechanisms. Via the implementation of participation budgeting, democratic values and thoughts of people will be solid (Rossmann &Shanhan 2012). Budget transparency. Participatory budgeting provides citizens with understanding and direct insights into how a government actually works, especially when citizens would actively and properly participate in the government process. If decisions are made in a public forum open to taxpayers and the media, budgeting seems easier at municipalities to protect interests of citizenry (Bland and Rubin, 1997, p.6). Citizens are able to see what is happening as actions and events occur in the policy process. The government in action is no longer hidden behind such a veil of secrecy that no one knows the mysterious ways of their elected officials. Politicians, therefore, cannot focus solely on their political interests while they are being watched by the eyes of many citizens. Civil awareness. Participatory budgeting educates people with the knowledge of public affairs. Through public discussion, deliberation, and negotiation on budget issues, participatory 4 budgeting increases the range of citizen participation and enhances the citizens awareness of the whole budget process. In addition, fostering positive citizen attitude through a variety of strategies of participation, information, and reputation reduces cynicism (Berman, 1997).Citizens can be cultivated more familiar with the operation of government and public affairs. When citizens develop mature civil awareness, criticisms of government may decrease. Representation. Generally, the more people that participate in public affairs, the higher representation the elected officers possess to enact public policies. Justice and Dulgr (2009) assert that citizen participation in public resource allocation is presumed to be an important means of ensuring the responsiveness. In the past, the only thing citizens are able to do is to accept policies that were decided by the members of city halls. Hence, people often question the representativeness of the policies that are made only by a few government officers. Via participation mechanisms, people feel that public affairs and policies are their business because they have more opportunities to access to public affairs and make public policies more representative. Feedback. Governments are able to get suggestions from citizens and know what citizens really want to have. Citizens can offer insight and information in the budget process, procuring better public policy decision (Simonsen and Robbins, 2000).When big issues are up for debate in a vote, governments really need opinions from a significant number of people. Although some scholars question whether people know the operations of the governments, as the time passes by and participatory mechanisms develop, citizens will become better educated and have more knowledge of public issues, so they often have useful suggestions for the governments. Policy implementation. Although it is often difficult for citizen participation to improve the level and quality of municipal service provision by making services more responsive to the needs of citizens (Callahan and Holzer, 1999: 51), the implementation of public services and policies becomes more efficient. Thus, meaningful citizen participation would bring external citizen input in the public budget process (Berner, 2001). For instance, before taxes increase, the city, which holds public hearings or forums to gain suggestions and opinions from citizens will have fewer obstacles from the people to levy. Political Influences of Participatory Budgeting in Taiwan Local Governments Rubin s Budget Politics Reviews Budget is the most important policy statement of any government. The expenditure side of the budget shows who gets what from government, and the revenue side shows who pays the cost. (Dye and Zeigler, 2009: 254). Budget process appears to be a simple matter, but in reality, it is very complex. External environments, government interior institutions, and interactions among budget actors change the public budget process. The influence of relevant stakeholders in citizen participation process is dynamic. Generally, political party, regional non-profits organizations, grassroots organization, politicians are main stakeholders in citizen participation process, and they exert different influences on policy agenda, governmental activities, and citizens. Especially some stakeholders are important in some types of participation mechanism. For example, representative of diverse relevant group, 5 such as environmental associations and groups representing the disadvantaged people, are selected to serve on an advisory committee for offering suggestions on particular policies or issues. The change of the budget process means that some budget powers transfer from some actors to others; some budget actors may dominate budget decision, and some may lose it (Rubin 2010). Political interactions among budget actors in the budget process will present different interactive patterns, and therefore, local officials will think of more strategies to handle political factors in the budget process (Bland & Rubin 1997). The political influences of participatory budgeting imply that the budget process becomes more changeable and variable (Lerner 2011; Zhang and Liao 2011). When a city implements participatory budgeting, the main political influences can be explored through Rubin s budget politics reviews. Background of Budget process in Taiwanese City and Township Government In Taiwan, the government system consists of four governmental levels: the Central, Municipality, County, and Township/City. Each level of government is required to make its own local budget plans. However, because of a lack of human and financial resources, many local governments do not have stronglyfinancial capacity like those of the two biggest municipal governments (Taipei and Kaohsiung City) and the central government. When a huge budget disaster occurs, these local governments still have to rely on the support and resources from the central government. The township and city governments are the basic level of Taiwanese local government, which have high level of interacting with local residents. In the basic political governmental unit, the township and city mayor works as the frontline director of local budget management affairs. The traditional model of budget decision-making has evolved. The separation of taxpayer and budget users and a top-to-down decision model have important implications for the budget process. The top-to-down budget decision-making model in Taiwan city and township government is similar to traditional budget decision-making model in the U.S. mayor-council form of local governments in which city mayors have power over the budget decision, and annual budget plan is relied on the effect of city budget offices, and the councils have authority to use audit and examine the annual budget plans before they approve it. Local legislator could address budget recommendations to the administrative departments and the city/county/township mayor. However, in medium and small cities and township, because of lacking a professional budget staff, those local legislators of townships and cities do not have enough power to veto on the city mayor s proposals and is prohibited from denying an estimated budget which is addressed by the city mayor. Also, package legislations in large clumps exist in local governments. In some cases, budgets are passed as a single ordinance, which does not include any related legislation. Before deciding an annual plan, a city/township mayor negotiates or discusses the budget with the city legislators, and they form an agreement on budget decision in advance. The mayor has to direct budget plan, coordinate budget resources among departments, and be accountable for local legislators and residents. However, due to lacking financial and human resources, most of township mayors still have to rely on county government s grand help in dealing with budget deficit issues. Besides, the special institutional design also limits the township mayor s ability in directing budget plans in their township or city because high level of governments may advise township or city mayors in some cases in order to please the local 6 residents who may cynic to public polices. Although top-down budgeting decisions seem more efficient, they virtually ignore citizens opinions and easily cause dissatisfaction. Participatory budgeting, which characterize more bottom-up budgetary demands and requests are generated by citizens to influence the budget proposals, has been advocated. As many candidates suggest in elections, participatory budgeting in city or township governments would eliminate the gap between tax payers and budget decision makers. Therefore, the distribution of power between the mayor, administrators and the local legislators is highly variable by participatory budgeting. While top city officers still reserve budget decisions, they need to share budget decision power to certain extent with citizens through the mechanisms of participatory budgeting. The budget making-decis
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