Paper: State/regional govts “undergoing significant change” but not enough for resistance groups

According to a research paper that was published early this month, state and regional governments created under the 2008 constitution “are undergoing significant change” but are also facing “significant limitations.”

“Decentralization to states and regions within current constitutional restraints,” reads State and Region Governments in Myanmar, a collaboration between The Asia Foundation and the Myanmar Development Resource Institute’s Center for Economic and Social Development (MDRI-CESD), “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.”

Book cover: State and Region Government in Myanmar
Significant changes include:

  • Partially elected unicameral state/region legislature, composed of two elected members per township, representatives for “national races” and appointed military representatives equal to one quarter of the total
  • State/region cabinet composed of civilian ministers selected by the state/region chief minister from among the state assembly representatives or other candidates
  • State/region Advocate General nominated by the Chief Minister
  • States and regions collecting significant revenues

But while presence of partially-elected bodies is a major reform, it is also facing significant limitations:

  • Capacity constraints “Most states and regions have passed very few laws dealing with local issues”
  • The chief minister, selected by the President, is accountable ultimately to the President and not to the state/region legislatures
  • State/region ministers have little control over the administrative apparatus, as the administrative office of state/region governments is formed by the General Administration Department (GAD) of the military-led home ministry
  • Many of the significant departments such as health and education remain centralized
  • State/region minister for border and security affairs is a military officer nominated by the Commander in Chief
  • Judicial appointment procedures and structures are centralized and limit judicial independence
  • The scope of state/region budget remains small – probably under 5% of public spending

“The restrictive for the amendment of the Constitution (that it requires more than 75% votes of the Union Assembly to make changes) suggest that the drafters intended that the current distribution of authority would be an end, rather than a starting point,” the paper comments.

Nevertheless there are encouraging signs, says the paper:

  • In August 2013, the President announced 5 public administration reform initiatives including increasing state/region influence over human resources and further deconcentrating major union ministries
  • In March 2013 the Union Parliament approved a Constitutional Review Committee to examine the Constitution and to submit which articles should be amended, annulled and substituted
  • The 2013 State/Region Assembly bill introduces changes, including permitting a state/region legislature office that is not necessarily GAD controlled, allowing for public attendance at legislature sessions, and representatives have constituency funds and independent representative offices
  • There is a broad consensus that further decentralization reforms to states and regions is needed

The MDRI-CESD is reported to be headed by noted economist U Myint. For further information, please visit –


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