Functional and expenditure assignments in Myanmar

Decentralisation of fiscal power and responsibilities to sub-national governments is essential to achieve the emergence of a united federal democratic union as well as to achieve the government’s key policy objective of creating favourable economic conditions for balanced economic development across the States and Regions. Recent decentralisation reforms have empowered new subnational governments to administer over a set of responsibilities and have their own budgets. While decentralisation is a government goal, long-term vision and political aspects of the decentralisation process in Myanmar are yet to be defined. However, there are still opportunities to lay the foundation for a longer-term process.

Through our recent studies, we have learned that expenditure on trunk roads/highways accounts for a significant portion of total expenditure at various levels of governments. As, arguably, the most decentralised sector in Myanmar, a closer look at roads provides an opportunity for evaluation of institutional capacity and constraints on Myanmar’s path to decentralisation. The current state of affairs still presents ambiguities around administrative and financial arrangements between Union and State/Region governments and raises questions around subnational governments’ level of discretion over roads spending. Thus, this project envisages to use roads as a case study to shed light on institutional realities around functional assignments of responsibilities between various levels of governments and to offer lessons learned from initial steps that would be essential for future fiscal decentralisation reform. It aims to fill the gap in knowledge around institutional realities of decentralisation in Myanmar.

The project will primarily focus on the following areas: 1) a literature review on theoretical findings on sectorial assignment; 2) a sectoral case study on roads; 3) a reflection on decentralisation with specific policy recommendations.

The research will involve a desk review of relevant literature, analysis of gathered qualitative and quantitative data, whenever available, field research and key informant interviews with officials of selected state and region governments, officials from township DAOs.