Shortly before the election to the House of Representatives, the Senate passed a concept for a nationwide participatory budget almost unnoticed. The Senate Department for Finances and the Senate Chancellery are supposed to create the prerequisites so that citizens can be “promised a specific budget for the implementation of the investment projects they propose”.
The start is planned for 2023. People can use it to make investment decisions that are relevant to Berlin themselves and thus “help shape their everyday reality”, says the concept: “This process can promote their self-efficacy, motivate them to participate more and strengthen the population’s identification with their city.”
When developing the guidelines, the experiences from the districts should be used; “Synergies with existing investment structures” are also sought. With the “definition of a minimum amount of 25,000 euros per proposal for measures with a predominantly investment character”, a clear distinction is to be established from the smaller sums from the districts.
In the 29-page concept, however, no total amount is mentioned that the State of Berlin should provide for the citizens’ budget. The Senate resolution will now be introduced to the Council of Mayors.
So-called “participation budgets” have existed for years in other countries and in German cities such as Stuttgart. The two-part administrative structure of Berlin with districts and the state level has so far made it difficult to develop a concept for the whole of Berlin.
Because participatory budgeting has been discussed in the House of Representatives for years. In addition to red-red-green, there were also positive voices from the FDP, while the CDU has always rejected the project. Lichtenberg, in particular, was the pioneer in Berlin, which was the first metropolitan municipality in Germany to set up participatory budgeting in 2005. Participatory budgeting is also available in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Neukölln and Treptow-Köpenick. However, the sums to be distributed in the districts are relatively small and do not allow larger projects.
Other large cities have had years of experience with this instrument. In Paris from 2014 to 2020, a total of 500 million euros were made available for city-wide projects and investments, which the citizens of the capital can decide on. So far, more than 140,000 Parisians have contributed thousands of suggestions to the distribution of the funds.