The Taunggyi Development Affairs Organization (DAO) has launched, with the support of The Asia Foundation, the first ever municipal citizen’s budget in Myanmar, demonstrating a commitment to transparent, accountable and responsive municipal governance, according to press release.
Development Affairs Organizations (DAOs) are the equivalent of municipal authorities outside of Yangon and Mandalay. They raise their own revenues through taxes, fees and licenses and deliver services (mainly rubbish collection, roads and bridges, street lighting, sewers and drainage) to the citizens of their cities.
“This is the very first DAO budget report in Myanmar. It will definitely help to build trust between the DAO officers and public which could generate more revenue for DAO to implement city development projects. People will not be afraid or reluctant to pay taxes if they realized where public finances are used for. And this can be one of the initiatives for other state and regions to adapt such kind of budget transparency,” U Aye Ko, Executive Officer of Taunggyi Township DAO and Acting Director of Shan State Development Affairs said.
The Taunggyi DAO Citizen’s Budget launch builds on the momentum surrounding increased budget transparency and accountability amongst government that began in in 2017when states and regions across Myanmar first started developing subnational Citizen’s Budgets.
“Citizen’s Budgets are a vital form of communication between governments and their people, contributing to more informed publics, higher trust between governments and the people they represent and, ultimately, a stronger democracy.
Such a document is especially critical at the municipal level, where government decisions make the most impact on the ground,” notes Matthew Arnold, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation in Myanmar.
Research conducted by The Asia Foundation, including the City Life Survey, shows a strong demand from Myanmar urban residents for information on their DAO’s budgets. Responding to this demand, the Taunggyi Citizen’s Budget presents clear and accessible information about the revenues the DAO collects and the allocation of its resources. Thanks to this publication, the public will have a better understanding of the DAO’s responsibilities and activities over the last fiscal year.
Publishing such a document shows the willingness of Taunggyi municipal authorities to improve their communication with residents, increase transparency, and more responsibly manage public finances.
Based on the information from the document, participants were able to get a more informed and sensitive understanding of how municipal systems work. For example, they were able to recognize the link between low property tax rates and low revenues that affect the DAO’s ability to spend on services such as solid waste management and city infrastructure development.
Ward administrators were actively engaged during the lunch and asked questions related to the details about DAO revenue, expenditure and activities in different wards related to water distribution, waste collection, road constructions, etc.
The Asia Foundation has been providing technical assistance to DAOs in 12 townships to improve their waste management, tax administration and communication with citizens through technology and capacity building. This citizen budget was created through the support of the UK Government Aid (DFID), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).