A third of Montenegrin municipalities do not report on citizens’ participation in public discussions on their budgets; available data show that citizens generally did not participate in budget discussions for this year, with the exception of the municipalities of Bar, Plav and Žabljak.
There were no citizens at public discussion on local budgets for 2018 in Podgorica, Cetinje, Petnjica and Šavnik. According to information collected by the Institute Alternative for the second consecutive year, citizens in these municipalities did not take part in the public discussions on the budget for 2017 either.
We recall that the budget of the Capital City for 2018 is worth almost 3.5 million euros more than last year’s budget, so there is a need for the administration to inform citizens more proactively about conducting public discussions.
Seven Municipalities do not report at all on citizens’ participation. These are the municipalities of Budva, Tivat, Herceg Novi, Pljevlja, Plužine, Andrijevica and Gusinje.
Among the municipalities reporting on the participation of citizens, the municipality of Bar stands out with a high number of citizens attending the public discussion (174). Plav and Žabljak Municipalities also attracted a significant number of citizens in proportion to their size – 24 and 15 respectively.
On the other hand, Ulcinj and Nikšić municipalities, which attracted more persons during the discussion on the budget for 2017, failed to keep this practice when discussing this year’s budget. Thus, in the Ulcinj Municipality, only 10 citizens participated in the public discussion on 2018 budget, and only two citizens in the Municipality of Nikšić.
The reason for a large number of participants in the Bar Municipality is the organization of several public discussions in local communities for different target groups.
Besides common mechanisms that municipalities use to inform citizens about public discussions on the annual budget, such as daily press, local media, notice boards, telephone communications or eventual informing in municipal offices, local authorities must create new ways of communicating with citizens. This can be backed by social networks, through which citizens can communicate more frequently with their municipality and make suggestions, proposals and questions about the way in which their money is spent.
For more active citizens’ participation, genuine understanding of planned annual spending is of crucial importance, which municipalities could achieve through “budget for citizens”, a platform that will bring financial management in their town closer to citizens and engage them in public discussions where they can give their contribution.
Through the development of participatory budgeting of capital budgets in municipalities, citizens would also have a direct influence on the development of capital investment in their city.
Data on citizens’ participation was collected in the framework of the project “Money Watch – Civil Society Guarding the Budget”. The project is implemented by the Institute Alternative, the New Horizon and the Institute for Public Finance, and financed by the European Union.
Within the project we will continue to monitor the management of public finances and advocate for higher public trust in efficiency of public spending.
Public Policy Researcher