Economist U Saw Naing told participants at the Post Budget Consultation on Myanmar 2015-2016 meeting that tax reform and more effective ways to bring in income were needed to help balance the Myanmar government’s books.
Speaking at the Post Budget Consultation on Myanmar 2015-2016 in Yangon on May 24, he said everybody should know about the country’s budget, stressing the need for a “citizens budget” and transparency with government spending.
The meeting was jointly organized by the National Economic and Social Advisory Council Myanmar (NESAC), Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), and Action Aid Myanmar.
Action Aid Myanmar has been working on economic literacy and public service financing in order to ensure a pro-poor budget, participatory bottom-up planning, transparency and the strengthening of the capacity of state and non-state actors in Myanmar.
About 200 government and non-state players discussed the government’s 2015-16 fiscal year budget, looking at how the budget was allocated, how it is being used for national development, and the percentage growth in sector allocation. Action Aid runs meetings on the budget prior to the budget being brought in, and as here, after its implementation.
The Myanmar government has long come in for criticism over its high spending on defence and low outlay for education and health.
During his presentation, U Saw Naing highlighted how government spending had shot up in some of the ethnic states since President U Thein Sein came to power in 2011. He showed the big leaps in spending in the Kayah and Shan states.
He highlighted the president’s insistence on efforts to alleviate poverty, given the country’s generally low international poverty ranking.
U Saw Naing pointed out the ways to finance the budget deficit. His list included selling government bonds, borrowing from abroad, selling state assets, printing money and making sure the government has a good tax system.
He pointed out that the percentage of GDP derived from taxes is rising.
U Saw Naing said that maintaining a balanced budget involves either reducing expenditure or raising revenues, primarily through tax, keeping in mind the need for tax reforms to bring in more income and tighter law enforcement to ensure people and companies pay their tax.
The serious subject was not without a touch of humour, however, as he highlighted a well-known proverb: “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
His overall message was that Myanmar has to get serious about its tax system and tax collection.