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This article explores the participatory planning and participatory budgeting processes of Bangladesh. These processes, seen as ‘social accountability measures’, were introduced by the Local Government (Union Parishad) Act, 2009. This study used a qualitative case-study methodology, backed by secondary documentary analysis, to assess how the processes were working in six union parishads (the lowest tier of government in Bangladesh). On the basis of both primary and secondary data, the study found that involvement of non-governmental organisations was an effective method of enhancing the capacity of union parishad functionaries to implement participatory planning and participatory budgeting. Positive outcomes observed included increased people’s participation, identification of socio-economic concerns, increased trust in elected representatives, increased transparency, changes in patterns of service delivery and improved viability of direct fund transfers to local government institutions. However, challenges to local planning and budgeting were also identified: failure to link policy, planning and budgeting due to a lack of capacity among local elected and government officers, structural mismatches between local planning and budgeting and corresponding processes at regional and national level, resource constraints, and local political interference.
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