The Kayin State government launched its second Citizen’s Budget on Friday, with the support of The Asia Foundation, a non-profit international development organization and Renaissance Institute, a Yangon-based policy think tank.
According to a statement, the second budget builds on the momentum of Kayin’s inaugural Citizen’s Budget (for financial year 2017/2018), reflecting a continued commitment to increased transparency, strengthened accountability, and better public engagement. The Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute supported Kayin government’s first Citizen’s Budget.
The Minister of Planning, Finance and Municipal Affairs, members of the Kayin Hluttaw, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, representatives from local civil society organizations and the media gathered at the Thanlwin Paradise hotel for the Citizen’s Budget launch. The government set time aside for participants to engage directly with officials and ask questions.
Kayin State Minister of Planning, Finance and Municipal Affairs, U Than Naing highlighted in his opening remarks that, “Sharing the information and budget data transparently is the most fundamental and important thing to raise public cooperation in budgeting process and policy making process.”
Citizen’s Budgets present important budget information through easy-to-understand text and visualizations. For example, the document explains the overall macro-economic performance of the Kayin State government, provides a breakdown of revenue and expenditure, and provides information on where taxes are spent.
Kelsey Atwood, Governance Program Manager, said that Citizen’s Budgets don’t replace the detailed budgets of government, but they do take complex and often inaccessible data and make it available to citizens and civil society in a more understandable and concise way. “By doing this, Citizen’s Budgets provide the public with the necessary information to better participate in bottom-up planning and the process of holding government accountable for how it allocates and spends money. It’s highly commendable that the Kayin government has been among the first states and regions to pursue this level of budgetary transparency and citizen engagement.”
Decentralization has been an important characteristic of Myanmar’s historic transition toward democracy, most visible in the establishment of 14 state and region governments in the 2008 Constitution. Since then, more political power and fiscal responsibilities have been devolving from the Union government to the hands of subnational governments. This process is important because state and regional governments are better placed to receive and respond to their citizens’ needs. Citizen’s Budget is one of the ways in which subnational governments can directly engage with their citizens.
According to the Budget Director of Kayin State, U Than Yee, the Budget Department “releases the Citizen’s Budget in very simple form by avoiding complicated technical terms to improve transparency and allow responses and support from the public when we do next year budgeting process. If the public have more understanding of the budget, the government will then be more accountable to CSOs and citizens.”
The Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute provide technical support in the area of public financial management in Kayin State and Bago, Tanintharyi, Yangon and Ayeyarwaddy Regions. The Asia Foundation’s work on strengthening subnational governance in Myanmar is supported by the UK Government Aid (DFID), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).