Poverty reduction and inclusive development comes down to better tax and spending decisions

06 August 2016
Poverty reduction and inclusive development comes down to better tax and spending decisions
Stakeholders and policy makers at the Policy Dialogue on Socio Economic Development of Myanmar being held in Nay Pyi Taw. Photo: Mizzima

The Myanmar government’s commitment to poverty reduction and inclusive development will be realized through an overhaul of the tax system and effective, accountable and wise spending decisions.
This is the main message to come from stakeholders and policy makers at the Policy Dialogue on Socio Economic Development of Myanmar being held in Nay Pyi Taw.
The one-day policy dialogue was organized by Mizzima Media and ActionAid Myanmar on the socio economic development of Myanmar in Nay Pyi Taw on August 6.
“Domestic tax reforms and effective ways of spending will go hand in hand to improve the country’s economy and poverty reduction efforts,” said one speaker.
Addressing the need for policies to tackle tax evasion, avoidance, simplifying and streamlining systems of tax administration and improving efficiency in the tax department are some important steps to build a culture of tax compliance in the country.  When it comes to effective spending, policy makers pointed out the need for people’s participation, accountability and independent audit mechanisms to monitor policy process as well as projects focusing on poverty reduction.
“Government’s commitment to reduce poverty, inequality and improving living conditions of people is reflected in the recently released economic policy document,”  Secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy U  Win Htein reiterated at the opening ceremony of the dialogue.
“We would be able to ensure that inclusive development and peace building will form the cornerstones of the government,” U Win Htein said, noting that they were inviting views from intellectuals, academia and civil society.
He pointed out that that policy making needs to take inputs from all quarters and that people’s feedback is critical for the government to function effectively.
U Aye Thar Aung,  Chairman of the Joint Public Accounts Committee  of parliament, emphasized the need to develop and implement careful and well thought through policy measures related to tax reforms particularly to improve the culture of tax compliance and address tax avoidance and tax evasion.
Acknowledging the need to improve the tax-GDP ratio, Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung Win pointed out that public debt has not yet reached an alarming levels, but there is a need to address prudency in public financial management in order to ensure effective and wise spending on priorities as stated in the economic policy.  He emphasized the government’s resolve to review the existing tax system and make it more simple, easy to implement and efficient in order to enhance tax revenues. Transparency and accountability in public finance management is also critical, according to the minister.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture Dr. Tun Win pointed out the need for revitalizing the rural sectors particularly agriculture in order to reduce poverty and the migration of farm workers and farmers. Effective spending on poverty reduction involves coordinated effort across many ministries and also a change in the attitude of the bureaucracy.
Speaking on the importance of peace, democracy and equitable development Dr. AungTunThet, a noted scholar, appealed for a political economy perspective in policy making so that pro-poor policies can be made effective while being implemented. The government needs to commit itself to the dream of building an economically vibrant and socially inclusive society that is anchored in democracy.
Political commitment for poverty reduction is critical, according to scholars who pointed out a series of measures to enhance poverty reduction efforts and pro-poor policies. 
Scholars U Zaw Pe Win, DawKhin Ma Ma Myo and Dr Tin Maung Than pointed out the need for an expanding tax base and streamlining the system,  fiscal federalism,  public administration reform, project monitoring and evaluation and audits.  Economist U Khin Maung Nyo identified the need for capacity-building at different levels and in different sectors as critical for policy implementation and effective implementation of reforms.