Featured Commitment – Madrid
In April, the Financial Times reported that Spain’s ongoing ruling-party corruption scandal had “claimed a new political scalp,” with a Popular Party veteran resigning in the wake of accusations of misuse of public funds at a water company in the Madrid region of Spain. This wasn’t the first time budget funds had been misappropriated, but it hammered in the need for fiscal transparency at all levels of government – and made the city of Madrid’s new participatory budgeting platform all the more vital for citizen engagement.
Indeed, Spain’s political system has evolved through a number of corruption scandals over recent decades. In the wake of a wave of youth-led anti-austerity protests in 2013 and 2014, a group of young civic activists created the Decide Madrid program, an online platform that allows citizens to propose and vote on policy decisions. Described by its founders as “the biggest step in democracy in Spain in decades,” early results show progress in terms of voter and citizen participation – and impact on policymaking.
In 2016, acting on a desire to make budget decisions more open and accessible to the public, Madrid developed Spain’s first municipal participatory budget process. Other cities in Spain, like Seville, Albacete, and Cordoba, had tried participatory budgeting before, but never at the scale and level of the Madrid process. A portion of Madrid’s budget – €60 million – was directly allocated by citizens through a proposal process, allowing them to propose potential expenditures by the City Council and receive evaluations of those proposals before the wider populace could vote on the proposals. Madrid’s Subnational Action Plan (SNAP) includes a commitment to consolidate this model and build upon it, integrating it into the Decide Madrid program, implementing a tracking process from cradle to grave, and increasing the total budget for the participatory portion to €100 million. The commitment also opens up the co-creation process, allowing for more time, platforms, and participation of citizens to ensure deeper cooperation and collaboration – and potentially better results.
The success of Madrid’s participatory budget will depend entirely on the level of citizen participation and the degree to which citizens get involved in the process. The data in OGP’s new publication, What’s In the Subnational Action Plans, shows that open budget commitments account for over 18% of all SNAP commitments. With the peer exchange already developing between Madrid and Buenos Aires, and an upcoming meeting of all Pioneers in mid-July, it is likely that those developing open budgets will be able to learn from each other on how to increase public buy-in and bring the power of money to the people – and make Madrid’s participatory budgeting platform a success.