Good spend­ing, good ac­count­ing prac­tices a must: re­tired min­is­ter

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTIN LIN AUNG htin­lyn­naung@mm­

COR­RECTLY al­lo­cat­ing bud­getary re­sources is one of the most prob­lem­atic and im­por­tant steps the gov­ern­ment must take to de­velop the coun­try, a for­mer of­fi­cial from the Min­istry of Plan­ning and Fi­nance said last week.

Speak­ing at the launch of a new on­line bud­get por­tal that aims to make gov­ern­ment fund­ing more trans­par­ent, U Soe Thein, a re­tired deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral from the min­istry, ac­knowl­edged that bal­anc­ing the ex­pense sheet with all the min­istries’ de­mands is “not an easy task”.

“Myan­mar is a de­vel­op­ing coun­try and there are many things that need fund­ing. If the money is not di­rected to the need­i­est places, the coun­try will not de­velop as it should,” he said at Open Myan­mar Ini­tia­tive’s launch of a new bud­get web­site on Septem­ber 27.

“Prop­erly al­lo­cat­ing re­sources re­quires a good ac­count­ing sys­tem,” he added.

Open Myan­mar Ini­tia­tive’s “bud­get ex­plorer” seeks to make in­for­ma­tion on gov­ern­ment spend­ing ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic us­ing search­able data­bases. The web­site in­cludes sec­tions on state and re­gion ex­pen­di­tures, sub­na­tional spend­ing in de­part­ments across the coun­try, a Union bud­get sum­mary, and in­comes and ex­pen­di­tures from sta­te­owned en­ter­prises.

The dash­board cur­rently con­tains data for the 2016-17 Union bud­get, and for some states and re­gions from the 2013-14 fi­nan­cial year.

For now, the web­site is only avi­l­able in English, but the de­vel­op­ers hope to even­tu­ally launch a Myan­mar-lan­guage ver­sion as well.

Ac­cord­ing to non­profit re­search group In­ter­na­tional Bud­get Part­ner­ship, Myan­mar ranks two out of 100 on bud­get trans­parency, with “scant” in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to the pub­lic and very few bud­get doc­u­ments made avail­able within “a time­frame con­sis­tent with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards”.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­search group’s April up­date, the new gov­ern­ment has pub­lished the same num­ber of key bud­get doc­u­ments as un­der the last gov­ern­ment in 2015.

U Soe Thein said the cur­rent K23.6 tril­lion 2016-17 bud­get has not shown a vast im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year’s K20 tril­lion bud­get in terms of ei­ther rev­enue or al­lo­ca­tion. Both spend­ing pat­terns were drafted and ap­proved by for­mer Pres­i­dent U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment.

“The in­ter­nal rev­enue has not de­vel­oped very much,” he said, cit­ing the in­creas­ing ex­pense of civil ser­vant salaries as a chal­lenge that is not be­ing off­set by ei­ther si­mul­ta­ne­ous in­creases in tax in­come or sta­te­owned en­ter­prises.

“The state-owned busi­nesses are flag­ging … and in terms of ex­penses, in­creas­ing the civil ser­vant salary to K100,000 may not seem like a large amount to com­pen­sate a bu­reau­crat for their work, but the num­ber of all the civil ser­vants through­out the coun­try is large, a fact that be­comes ob­vi­ous when bal­anc­ing the bud­get,” he said.

He added taxes col­lected from the states do not amount to much, and that in or­der for de­vel­op­ment to oc­cur, the states need to put in place a more sys­tem­atic tax­a­tion sys­tem.

“There are many [de­vel­op­ment] prob­lems to solve, and to do that re­quires money,” he added.

Myan­mar has among the low­est tax yields world­wide, ac­cord­ing to the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank, a prob­lem ex­ac­er­bated by a no­to­ri­ously cor­rupt In­ter­nal Rev­enue Depart­ment.

The Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led ad­min­is­tra­tion has pledged to clean up the IRD, and in­tro­duce more trans­parency into the dys­func­tional tax­a­tion sys­tem. Dur­ing the cam­paign sea­son ahead of last year’s elec­tion, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told sup­port­ers that her party would form a “clean” gov­ern­ment and the party’s elec­tion man­i­festo promised to “take ef­fec­tive ac­tion as nec­es­sary in or­der to es­tab­lish a so­ci­ety free of cor­rup­tion”.

Cur­rently, there is not a pub­licly avail­able list of all the state-owned eco­nomic en­ter­prises, nor has the gov­ern­ment pro­duced bud­get au­dits avail­able to cit­i­zens. – Trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han

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