Opportunities and Challenges Regarding the Local Governance Reform Process in Present Day Myanmar: Keynote Address by Union Minister U Hla Tun

Feb 24, 2015

Union Ministers, Hluttaw Representatives, State and Region Government Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Representatives from Donor Countries all over the world, Development Partners, Representatives from International organizations and Honorable Guests – Mingalabar- greetings to all of you.

I would like to thank you all international development partners for your support in the reform process of our country.

Since the new government assumed responsibility, it has been committed to the policy of good governance and clean government. In implementing this policy, we have embarked upon several waves of reform. As part of the second and third waves of reform, we have defined capacity building of local governance and public administration at the sub-national level as a goal.

In addition, during the four years of responsibility undertaken by the new government, central governing bodies, organizations at the Union level and the various regional levels have introduced and practiced a new people-centered administrative approach in line with a democratic system of government.

In the practical implementation of this approach, I am responsible for the reform process in public administration. I have found that building the capacity of the country’s regional or local governance is of extreme importance.

I have also found that in capacity building, it is necessary to reduce centralized control by the process of power sharing and allocation of financial and natural resources. In reducing centralized control, building the capacity of regional/local administrative groups including those of districts, townships, wards and village tracts can contribute to the decentralization process.

Distinguished guests -

As 70% of the country’s population live in the rural areas of the 15 regions and states including Nay Pyi Taw which constitute the Union’s territory, it is necessary to place emphasis on good local governance and the provision of efficient public administration services.

In order to carry out such activities, allocated funds to support local development projects for regions and states have been increased to 12% in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. This is testimony to the new government’s commitment to and support for the improved capacity and effectiveness of local governance.

Moreover, Administrative Reform Coordination Committee (ARCC) has been formed, with members comprising responsible representatives from regions and states. Coordination work has been carried out regarding improved local governance and the smooth implementation of local development projects.

In addition, in order to improve important public services such as health and education, centralized control was reduced, while regional and state governments were given the rights to administer their regions independently.

The efforts to bring about local governance reform involve financial management, budget allocations, and management of revenues and taxes. Similarly, in order to strengthen the region and state governments, the Union Government is carrying out procedures such as transferring of powers, rights, accountability and responsibility.

Therefore, in stating policies which will transfer responsibilities to the region and state governments, there is basically a link between the organizational structure, size, power and natural resources of the relevant regional governments.

The capacity, maturity, strategic vision, transparency, responsibility and accountability of regional governments are important factors for the strengthening of the relevant local governments. However, developing good, strong governance is a steady and continuous process which will take time.

Distinguished guests –

I believe that the support of international development partners will greatly aid us in strengthening local governance and improving public services. The efforts of the district and township committees in the relevant regions and states will also contribute to the socio-economic development of the local people and the decentralization process. The activities of the district, township, ward and village tract committees in the relevant regions and states are based on a bottom-up consultation system, and reflect the genuine needs of the local people.

There are challenges in implementing the local governance reform process. These challenges differ slightly, depending on the context, cultural history, population, natural resources and economic situation of the relevant region. But if we conduct an overall review we will find (6) main challenges. They are –

1) Lack of effectiveness in the practical implementation of projects and processes, and incompetence of civil service
2) Weaknesses in practicing transparency and upholding the rule of law
3) Inadequate accountability and responsibility
4) Insufficient participation of stakeholders, including the local people
5) The need for equality in development
6) Decentralization needed in financial matters and weaknesses in financial management

It is extremely important not to be discouraged by these challenges, and to be able to view these challenges as opportunities for the development of the country.

From the experience of other countries, we can find that some countries takes at least 15 to implement reforms in governance.

However, we can reach our goal in a short time if we all join hands and work together.

In conclusion, I would like to ask participants who are attending today’s forum to work together to find answers to the challenges I have presented. I would like to conclude by urging everyone to take the opportunity of benefiting from international experience and support and to focus on national interest while working for the improvement of the local governance reform process.

Thank you all.

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