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The Asia Foundation Releases New Edition of State and Region Governments in Myanmar Report

Decentralization critical for building a more accountable, responsive, and participatory Myanmar

Yangon, November 1, 2018 — The Asia Foundation released a new edition of its flagship State and Region Governments in Myanmar report in a launch event in Yangon today. State and region governments that are accountable, participatory, and responsive can give people more power and influence, according to the new publication. The 2018 report provides updates on the structures and functions of subnational governance in Myanmar and identifies the key political, administrative, and fiscal opportunities and challenges presented by decentralization.

Myanmar’s 14 state and region governments are taking on more responsibility. State/region governments increasingly shape the role and perceptions of the Myanmar state as they broaden their range of activities and manage a significant proportion of government expenditure. In fiscal year 2017/18, state/region governments were responsible for expenditure totaling over USD 1.8 billion (MMK 2.5 trillion).

“Since 2013, state and region governments have emerged as important actors in Myanmar’s transition,” said Matthew Arnold, The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Myanmar at the report launch. “But decentralization overall remains limited and somewhat imbalanced. Nonetheless, state [and] region governments still represent important changes for the country in terms of democratization and improved governance. This new report intends to support a stronger policy debate about decentralization in the country.”

The report reveals a number of key findings about decentralization in Myanmar:

  • Overall, however, decentralization in Myanmar remains limited and imbalanced: administrative and fiscal decentralization lag behind political decentralization.
  • The underlying institutions, systems, and laws governing the framework for decentralization in Myanmar have not been radically altered in the last five years.
  • There are key differences among states and regions in the paces and form of decentralization. In some areas, such as Yangon and Rakhine, hluttaws have been more active in holding the executive to account, for example. When comparing different sectors and departments, the municipal sector is characterized by much greater decentralization than others.

Further decentralization is being driven by some overarching trends:

  1. State/region governments are increasingly involved in a broader range of activities within their respective areas.
  2. State/region departments are increasingly accountable to the state/region governments. 
  3. State/region hluttaws are increasingly assertive in holding the executive to account and representing their constituents.
  4. A township governance system, starting from a low base, is being steadily encouraged to respond to the needs of local populations, though further progress is needed.

“Over the past five years Myanmar’s state and region governments have demonstrated that they matter and that they can play a critical role in supporting Myanmar’s democratization,” said Richard Batcheler, The Asia Foundation’s governance research manager and lead author of the report. “This importance will only continue to grow in the coming years.”

The Asia Foundation’s work on strengthening subnational governance in Myanmar is supported by UK Government Aid, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.
Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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Related locations: Myanmar
Related programs: Good Governance

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