Education and health among Pa-O’s priorities
PA-O Self-administered Zone’s (SAZ) will improve infrastructure, roads, water supply and access to electricity across the three townships in 2018-22, while setting up colleges and training schools for vocational and healthcare purposes.
The second five-year plan was launched this week by the Pa-O leading body, Myanmar Institute for Integrated Development (MIID) and the UK-funded DaNa Facility in Pa-O, southern Shan.
The 2012-17 development plan was initiated shortly after the Pa-O ethnic group had attained their right to selfadministration and was launched in 2012. Building on that scheme, the second one sets out a strategy for Pa-O to improve economic opportunities and livelihoods for communities in Hopong, Hsihseng and Pinlaung townships, focusing on including young people, women and marginalised groups in Pa-O’s development.
It was prepared by the Pa-O leading body, MIID technical specialists, local administrators and civil society organisations within the zone. The process was funded through the DaNa Facility, a programme created by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
According to the document seen by The Myanmar Times, the emphasis for the next five years would be on Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), healthcare, supporting small businesses and farmers as well as community and agro-forestry. Priorities identified include setting up an innovation fund to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), establishing three colleges, building irrigation channels, creating nursing and midwifery training schools and conducting feasibility studies on establishing township TVET centres.
The attention attached to education is not surprising, given that about 70 percent of working age people in the zone are either unpaid family workers or self-employed and a mere 42pc of the population over 25 years have finished primary school. The low education level is mainly due to the difficulty in accessing the facilities and the cost.
Dr Gail Marzetti, Head of DFID in Myanmar, said at the launch that this programme will set in place a strategy to give Pa-O people an opportunity to increase their incomes and prosperity. More economic inclusion will be “the foundation for continued peace and prosperity for all.”
Inclusion is another highlight. Similar to what U Khun San Lwin, chair of the Pa-O leading body, told this paper in January, Joern Kristensen, MIID executive director, said the revised blueprint will build on the previous scheme while seeking to scale up the involvement of local representatives, youth groups, the Pa-O Women Union and others. Since four-fifths of the proposals from the first plan have been implemented, U Khun San Lwin said, the emphasis is therefore on young people, women, and marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities.
“The updated five-year Strategic Development Plan for the Pa-O SAZ enable us to plan and carry out future development activities and continue building a prosperous community for this and future generations,” U Khun San Lwin commented. Agriculture is by far the most important sector for Pa-O’s economy. 80pc of the population depends on farming to make a living. Due to good soil and favourable climate, agriculture holds a very good potential but is held back by decades of conflict and isolation, which ended only in 2011. Poppy became a major source of income for farmers in the Pa-O area around the turn of the century. Before that they mainly grew cheroot leaf, corn and beans. Crop substitution programmes were initiated in 2015, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has been promoting the cultivation of coffee in Pa-O hills.