February 1, 2014 — On October 23, 2013 The Asia Foundationâ€™s Washington office hosted a forum on the findings of its major subnational governance study, State and Region Governments in Myanmar.
The study analyzes the functioning of state and region governments created under Myanmarâ€™s 2008 constitution, assesses their impact on the ongoing governance, peace, and decentralization reforms, and makes recommendations on strengthening fiscal planning, capacity, and responsiveness.
Co-authors Dr. Hamish Nixon, a governance specialist, and Dr. Matthew Arnold, an Asia Foundation expert on conflict and state fragility, as well as Dr. Zaw Oo, executive director of MDRI-CESD and a senior economic adviser to Myanmarâ€™s president, presented their perspectives on the challenges of decentralization and the opportunities it presents for progress toward inclusive and accountable democratic governance.
Dr. Arnold gave an explanation of Myanmarâ€™s constitutional features, noting that the countryâ€™s states are primarily areas with large ethnic minority populations, while regions have a Burmese majority. Dr. Nixon highlighted the three main avenues for decentralization â€“ administrative, fiscal, and political â€“ and outlined key challenges including clarifying responsibilities, distributing public resources, and delegating decision-making. Dr. Zaw Oo discussed the countryâ€™s long history of hierarchical governance, and the current leadershipâ€™s commitment to decentralization reform. In his remarks he emphasized the importance of minority inclusion within existing ministries, and of delegating increased authority to sub-national levels, particularly in policy areas such as education, natural resource extraction, and rural development.