This article focuses on the unlikely success of Peru’s top-down participatory budget experience. As part of democratization and decentralization efforts in the early 2000s, Peruvians mandated participatory budgeting in all subnational governments. The article suggests that, while success is constrained in many ways, Peruvians can point to two important accomplishments: 1) engaging a significant number of civil society organizations in debating public resources; and 2) an increased focus on “pro-poor” projects. The article concludes that the current challenge in Peru is to improve the process and engage an even more diverse array of participants. Only then will the process have real potential to improve local governance.

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