Thursday, April 24, 2014

Study shows military pulling strings from behind state/region governments

There’s a well known Burmese saying:
Given but not received,
Fed but not adequately

In Burma’s case, the study from Asia Foundation: State and Region Governments in Myanmar, published September 2013, has a clear answer for it: That all that has been given by the military at the front door is being taken back by it behind the door.
The presentation in Chiangmai on Monday, 21 April, organized more than six months after the paper was published.

The participants’ question, as outlined in the opening remarks, was to what extent the states and regions in Burma are realizing the promises of Panglong:

Full autonomy
Rights and privileges fundamental in democratic countries
Financial autonomy
(The other promise: that representatives of the Frontier/Border Areas would be responsible for the Frontier/Border affairs is not taken into consideration here)

The paper’s analysis, explained in 3 dimensions: administrative, fiscal and political, which all but dovetails with the question.

Administrative dimension

State/region governments has ministers, but no ministries
Only the municipal department comes directly under the state/region government
Health and Education are directly under the union government
Others are mixed. For instance, small scale mines are under state/region, but large scale mines are under union
Civil servants are appointed by the union government

Fiscal dimension

State/region governments pass own budgets but must be approved at the union level financial commission
States/regions receive only 3.6% of the total budget allocations (After the report came out, “causing widespread embarrassment”, President Thein Sein promised that the state/region’s budget would be increased to 12% for the 2014-15 fiscal year, but since some union departments would also be transferred to states/regions at the same time, it is unclear how much the increased budget allocation will benefit the states/regions)
No incentive for raising of revenues by states/regions, as they are allowed to apply for any deficits from the Union
Also not included in state/region budget are funds for chief ministers and state/region hluttaws (legislatures), which come from the General Administration Department of the union government’s home ministry. (The home ministry comes under the jurisdiction of the Commander-in-Chief and the state GAD officer also concurrently serves as the Chief Minister’s Secretary)

(The GAD was setup by the ruling Junta in 1988 and still exists completely intact today giving  the current Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing direct powers, not only at the state level, but complete authority at the township level of government.)

Political dimension

The legislature has 25% members of parliaments (MPs) appointed by the military
The state/region executive, called chief minister, comes from the state legislature but is appointed by the President
State/region judiciary is also appointed by and subordinate to the center

The study, in conclusion, has graded the country from 1 (not at all satisfactory) to 10 (very satisfactory) this way:
Administrative decentralization 2
Fiscal decentralization 2.5
Political decentralization 4

“Decentralization to states and regions within current constitutional constraints cannot provide the degree of political autonomy, security or share of national wealth that the non-state armed groups in conflict or ceasefire with the government desire in order to agree sustainable peace agreements,”  the paper states.

Also the paper concludes that the current 2008 constitution was written in a way to be the "end" of the political reform process rather than the beginning, particularly due the clauses that make changes virtually impossible as well as placing the military outside of government control.