As one of the research fellows of the German Government’s Bundeskanzler Stipendium Program, I’m visiting and researching the relationship between European countries and their rivers. After a month in Holland, I also spent a month in Denmark. The two nations have high level of quality of life. Therefore, it is curious how there are differences in their public management and in the conception of popular participation.
The Netherlands surprised me by the ability to take care of the smallest detail when it comes to urban infrastructure. Even the curb of the sidewalks is realized in an irredeemable way. In Denmark things are different. There is even some inattention on the curbs, sidewalks, streets, signs and material quality.
I gave my impression to some students and professors in Copenhagen. How surprised I was when I was questioned! “It’s not so perfect in Holland,” they replied. “Holland has a long tradition on planning, but because the territory, the approach is more top-down. A work may take longer here, it may not be so perfectly executed, but in Denmark the project needs to be everyone’s interest.” To danishes, more important than the quality is its participatory nature.
It’s a different way of looking at public management and setting priorities. The Participatory Budget, which has already had more space in the municipal administrations of Brazil, is a moving in this direction. But as a rule, the Brazilian communities are far from the decision-making process in almost all the works carried out by the municipality or other governmental levels. There is a certain lack of interest on the one hand, as well as an ideological struggle on the other, as many understand the participatory processes of management as exclusive to left-wing governments, which is a mistaken view.
Within the current political moment of the country, it is clear how the decisions are far from any popular participation. Particular interests are more effective in raising awareness of governments and politicians, in exchange for substantial counterparts, such as campaign financing (through legal channels or not) or personal advantages.
Few people know, however, that the participation of society in public management is a right guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. Our Charter allows citizens not only to participate in the formulation of public policies, but also to monitor the application of public resources.
In Denmark, participation in public management enables citizens to intervene in the decision-making process. Public power thus makes decisions that truly serve the public interest. At the same time, there is control of all about state initiatives. The manager needs to explain the decisions.
The trend in cities seen as models of quality of life is to open more and more space for the citizen to have decision-making power. In cities where citizens expect everything from public power, space is created for more problems and disintegration.
Brazil still clings to the old discussion of state size, creating conditions for institutionalizing inefficiency, bureaucratic processes, and corruption. But to reduce the size of the state and to increase the participation of the companies, will not work, if the process of inspection and decision remain so disconnected from the citizens. It is necessary to give the value due to social observatory in public administration.