Tanintharyi’s Citizen’s Budget to Focus on Infrastructure Development

Tanintharyi’s regional government is spending heavily on infrastructure and its 2017-18 budget focuses on electricity, roads and bridges as well as low-cost housing, Chief Minister Daw Le Le Maw told The Myanmar Times on January 22.

Out of the approved budget of K157.45 billion for 2017-18 fiscal year, K119.86 billion has been allocated for electricity, roads and bridges, as well as low-cost housing projects, according to the inaugural Citizen’s Budget released by the regional government.

The Union government first introduced the Citizen’s Budget in the 2015-16 fiscal year. But for Tanintharyi Region, this is the first of its kind. The launch ceremony was held at Diamond Crown hotel in Dawei on January 22, where the government disseminated hundreds of physical copies in hopes of helping citizens better understand the budget process and how the administration receives and spends its resources.

This inaugural budget was supported San Francisco-headquartered non-profit organisation The Asia Foundation (TAF). The TAF’s work on strengthening sub-national governance in Myanmar is funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development(DFID), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Infrastructure-heavy budget

“We spent most of our Tanintharyi budget on infrastructure sectors. Tanintharyi is the only region which does not secure its power supply from the national grid, hence we mainly used our budget for electricity. We then spent the budget on roads and bridges. Only when the road networks and road conditions improve will commodity flow and individual productivity increase,” Chief Minister Daw Le Le Maw said.

The Tanintharyi government spent a total of K30 billion on electricity through the Ministry of Energy – K18.14 billion for electricity supply from the national grid to Dawei, K7.92 billion for Myeik and K4 billion for Kawthoung.

“According to the policy of the Tanintharyi regional government, we first plan to supply electricity to Dawei, which is geographically nearest to the national grid. From Dawei, we will connect the national grid to Myeik and Kawthoung areas,” U Nay Lin Htet explained.

For road and bridge construction through the Ministry of Construction, K32.32 billion, K35.31 billion and K12 billion were used in Dawei, Myeik and Kawthoung districts respectively, amounting to K79.73 billion in total.

For the construction of city ring roads, K1.95 billion, K1.90 billion and K1.19 billion were spent on Dawei, Myeik and Kawthoung respectively.

The administration allocated K5 billion for low-cost housing, which includes five buildings in Dawei and eight in Myeik. In fact,  two buildings in the former and three in the latter were completed, regional planning and finance minister U Phyo Wai Tun told The Myanmar Times.

K20.64 billion was set aside for the regional government’s expenditure in 2017-18 and thus a quarter, i.e. K5 billion, out of the total was to tackle low-cost housing.

Expenditure for the education sector and implementation activities were not included in the budget.

“Budget is an important piece of information which every citizen should know. Previously, budget data were not open to the public. They are only revealed in the term of the democratic government.

“The Union Government has released a Citizen’s Budget three years ago. Hence, it is now an urgent matter for state and regional governments to release such reports.

“As the Tanintharyi regional government has made a bold step forward, we have provided financial assistance for the launching of the budget,” Dr Matthew Arnold, the TAF’s deputy representative in the country, told The Myanmar Times.

The 2017-18’s budget for Tanintharyi Region suggests that the estimated revenue is K11 billion while expenditure is K157.49 billion, resulting in a deficit of K146.38 billion. The gap is expected to be filled by the Union budget, according to the report.

Fiscal transparency

The TAF noted that the creation of state and region governments in 2008 has marked the beginning of a significant chapter in Myanmar democratic process. The subsequent decentralisation of political power and fiscal responsibilities has resulted in the establishment of local government institutions which are better placed to receive and respond to its citizens’ needs.

“The government’s budget is the primary way in which governments do that. As such, fiscal transparency is a key factor in the relationship between sub-national governments and their citizens, making the inaugural release of Citizen’s Budgets at the sub-national level a monumental step forward toward stronger democratic governance,” the organisation stated in its press release.

What is a Citizen’s Budget? Why is it important?

A Citizen’s Budget is a government-produced budget document designed to communicate important public finance information to citizens using everyday language and easy-to-understand graphics. These documents convey a wide range of technical topics without requiring extensive financial knowledge. These budget documents are developed as accessible gateways to more information, and are geared toward informing and equipping the public to participate in the budget process and hold the government accountable.

Citizen’s Budgets come in a variety of formats, from traditional reports or pamphlets to comic books. Some examples include: posters, infographics and picture books.

Throughout the early years of the country’s transition, civil society organisations and non-government organisations have responded to demands for more information through public documents, covering a spectrum of topics including public financial management. More recently, Myanmar has started to take increased ownership over such communication and has released three consecutive Citizen’s Budgets beginning with the 2015-16 fiscal year. This year, state and regional governments have followed suit, producing their own Citizen’s Budgets for the first time.

Citizen’s Budgets are critical to the relationship between the government and its people as they equip citizens with important information and help facilitate their participation in the budget cycle.

Increasing fiscal transparency and social accountability in the states and regions will encourage citizens to pro-actively take part in government decisions which directly affect their lives. Citizen’s Budget are thus particularly important at the sub-national level, as the distance between citizens and their government bodies is much shorter. These budgets cover many topics central to public financial management, including overall economic performance, breakdown of revenue and expenditure, where taxes are spent and more.

 

Source: The Myanmar Times

 

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