Participants of the first Interparliamentary Conference on Budget Oversight, Nay Pyi Taw, 23–26 November 2017. Photo credit: Wine Gyi.
Throughout Myanmar’s democratic transition, much of the government's focus has been on political reform, such as making changes to civil liberties, electoral legislation or managing the ongoing peace negotiations. By contrast, the country’s fiscal frameworks have received substantially less attention.
Effective fiscal management is a key component of good governance and imperative for efficient and inclusive public service delivery. In Myanmar, parliaments at the union, state and region levels need to transform the processes and habits of the old regime to ensure that taxpayers' money is used effectively and that budgets accurately reflect public need for education, healthcare and other services. Despite having a significant impact on the lives of everyday citizens, the stakeholders involved in financial management have had few opportunities for cross-level collaboration and dialogue.
To address this, the European Union-funded My Governance project hosted the first Interparliamentary Conference on Budget Oversight in Nay Pyi Taw (23–26 November) to promote dialogue on the budget process between parliamentarians and Executive members from all levels of government. In a rare example of collaboration of this scale, over 90 parliamentarians, ministry officials and government auditors from each of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions, as well as, 150 Members of Parliament from the Joint Public Accounts Committee of the Union Parliament and the counterparts from the Union Ministry of Planning and Finance and the Union Office of the Auditor General gathered to attend this conference. The conference was held in cooperation with the Joint Public Accounts Committee of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, International IDEA, and GOPA (Group of Policy Advisers) Global Consultants.
Over the course of the four-day conference, delegates explored innovative citizen engagement methods, lessons learned from regional and global peer experiences, current challenges faced by Myanmar’s public financial management systems and opportunities for reform.
“The conference provided a valuable opportunity for hands-on learning, and the chance to share experiences and learn from other states and regions”, said U Khin Maung Tin, Shan State Hluttaw MP.
The importance of effective and inclusive budgeting for a healthy democracy and social equity was a major theme, repeatedly highlighted throughout the conference. Gary Klaukka, International IDEA Programme Officer, delivered a presentation on innovative and practical examples of citizen engagement in the budget process, citing examples from local authorities in the United Kingdom. Highlighting the reciprocal relationship between a strong fiscal framework and a robust democracy, he stressed the importance of effective communication and consultation when handling budget cuts that may affect citizens’ wellbeing and livelihoods.
During the multiple breakout sessions, participants were asked to each develop at least one recommendation for reform or improvement. These insights were later shared with International IDEA and the GOPA Global Consultants team for future development and use.
Overall, the conference was a much-needed occasion for cross-level parliamentary collaboration, marking another step toward improving the stewardship of public finances in Myanmar.