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Myanmar’s first Citizen’s Budget for 52 years!

On 30 November, Spectrum received the Myanmar government’s 2015-16 Citizen’s Budget as part of the Ministry of Finance’s public distribution of 5,000 copies.

To the best of our knowledge, the last Citizen’s Budget in Myanmar was released in 1963-64 – more than five decades ago.

Spectrum is delighted that a Citizen’s Budget has been released. Together with UNICEF, our team developed a companion guide to the Citizen’s Budget called “Budget Guides for Growing Citizens” to support the introduction of national financial management to school students. The logic is that it is never too early to teach active citizen’s about their economic and social rights and about financial transparency and accountability.

As the young girl character in the cartoon books voices: “now I understand that the nation’s wealth is our money!” Informed citizens will be the key driver for national transparency and accountability.

In the chapter on "National Budget Transparency" in the 2012-2105 Framework for Economic and Social Reform (FESR), budgets are discussed as a critical link for citizen participation in democratic processes of national development. It highlights that “international experience certainly shows that civil society engagement can significantly improve budget processes, decisions and outcomes and thus transform the lives of people.”

It continues “international experience also demonstrates the critical importance of at least eight key budget documents being released to the public and made available for discussion, namely the pre-budget statement, executive’s budget proposal, enacted budget, Citizens’ Budget or guide to the budget for citizens, in-year reports, mid-year review, end-year report, and audit report.”

As a quick win, in the FESR the government committed to “consider preparing, publishing and making easily accessible for citizens as many of these reports as possible.”  For Myanmar the public availability of a Citizen’s Budget represents special progress. The government has actually produced six of the eight key budget documents, but they have not been released or published in an accessible or timely way.

Timely public release of budget reports can greatly improve Myanmar’s Open Budget Survey. Myanmar scored 0 out of 100 in 2012 and 2 out of 100 in the 2015 survey. Despite these low scores, very rapid improvement is possible. A good example of “timely release” seems to be Myanmar’s first Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report. The draft report was made available to representative civil society groups on 8 December, in advance of discussion in the Multi-stakeholder Group (MSG) on 18 December. It is due to be published and submitted to the EITI Secretariat by 1 January 2016.

Download the 2015-16 Citizen's Budget in Myanmar language here.

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