After a decade of regional level participatory budgeting event that started in 2008, Portugal is currently developing its first participatory budgeting (hereafter PB) project on a national scale. The initiative is called Participatory Budgeting Portugal (PBP).
PBP differs from other forms of PB not just on the level of applicability. Its budget was formally approved by Portugal’s National Senate, followed by creation of the Charter of Quality of Participatory Budgeting Portugal. This charter focuses on principles such as public regulation, continuity, transparency, deliberative and binding character, education for citizenship, equal access, among others. Similarly, PBP aims at integration that motivates “participation, engagement, trust and loyalty through law.” (Meira, 2018: 280).
Procedure and resources
The deadline for submission of PBP projects was 24 April 2018, and voting will take place from 11 June to 30 September 2018.
The budget for 2018 will be € 5’000,000. It will be divided between 8 allocations: 7 allocations for regions, and one for the national level. 16 projects will be selected – around two projects per allocation. Winning projects could be started during 2018, but must not exceed 24 months for completion.
Citizens over the age of 18 have two votes available: one for their region, and another for the national project. Foreigners legally residing in Portugal can also participate in the procedure. Votes can be cast in person in registered polls, online, or via SMS. A national identification card and number are required to participate in the voting process.
After the submission period ended, the proposed ideas were analysed, and rejected if “technically unenforceable”, deemed overly vague, or exceeded the amount of € 300,000. For PBP 2018, a total of 692 projects are up for a vote; 419 on a regional level, and 273 on the national level. The main areas of the participatory budgeting: culture, science, education and adult training (in mainland Portugal), while the autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores focuses more on justice and internal affairs (ibid: 284). Other areas include health, sports education, environment, agriculture, national defence, social welfare, and tourism .
The following are four project examples taken from the pool of 273 PBP ideas, applicable on the national scale and published at opp.gov.pt:
(1) TOPIC: School of Trades — A Study to Relaunch Trades
IDEA DESCRIPTION: To tackle the shortage of technical professions and crafts in Portugal with courses, support of craftsmen and promotion of their professions
AREA: Science, Technology and Higher Education
BUDGET: € 28,428.00
TERM: 18 months
(2) TOPIC: National Reforestation Plan
IDEA DESCRIPTION: Rehabilitation of areas damaged (Pinhal de Leiria, Pedrogão, Urso, Dunas de Quiaios, Margaraça, and Covilhã National Forests) by the forest fires of 2017
AREA: Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development
BUDGET: € 300,000.00
TERM: 24 months
(3) TOPIC: EBOOK
IDEA DESCRIPTION: Creation of a national, online-accessible e-book lending platform. Lending services of e-readers and tablets Culture € 300,000.00 24 months
Ocean Donut – Marine Waste Collection Station Construction of marine waste collection stations. They will be made with 100 % recycled plastic. Start a communication platform on the causes and consequences of ocean pollution Oceans € 300,000.00 24 months
An Excel spreadsheet with 20 examples selected randomly is available here (PBP 2018 National Projects).
PBP has a main web page (opp.gov.pt). General information about PB in Portugal is available on that website, along with the 692 projects. They are listed randomly, but can be filtered by scope (regional or national) or by area. There is an informative video that explains the step-by-step process of the voting.
Information about PBP has been circulating in various media since 2017; while some attention has also been given by internationally, priority has been given to national promotion. Apart from traditional media coverage and publicity, PBP also has relatively active Facebook and Instagram accounts, with a small following (Facebook: 8858; Instagram: 319). Similarly, the main platform of opp.gov.pt provides all the necessary information that could make an average citizen familiar with the process.
[Written by Luis Roberto Vera, trainee in the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS]
Meira Costa, Jorge (2018). “Participatory Budgeting (Portugal) as a marshalling legal process to formally and democratically defining European Monetary System and Policy” in Economic Alternatives, issue 2, 279-295.
 The exact criteria can be found in opp.gov.pt’s FAQ section (in Portuguese only).