The Myanmar elections of November 2010 sparked many major reforms in governance and served as a catalyst for peace-building in the country. Most notably, the elections initiated a shift from the country’s long-standing military rule to a civilian-dominated parliament. It also prompted the signing of cease-fire agreements with nearly all armed ethnic groups.
The legacy from decades of military rule continues to hamper socio-economic growth in the country. A household survey conducted by the U.N. Development Program in 2010 reveals that a quarter of the population still does not have enough resources to meet basic living needs. The U.K. Department for International Development has cited the significant challenges in Myanmar’s health sector, with high rates of malaria, malnutrition and tuberculosis. Years of conflict have also resulted in more than half a million displaced people both internally and overseas, increasing social tensions and the propensity for a resurgence of violence in the country.
As one of Myanmar’s top development partners, DfID acknowledges the country’s capacity to build a more robust and balanced economy. To help realize its economic potential, DfID will focus on generating income through Myanmar’s rich supply of natural resources — oil, gas, minerals and timber — which currently only benefit the elite. DfID’s resources will also target the agriculture sector which remains the primary source of income for 70 percent of the population.
For the period 2011–2015, DfID allocated 187 million pounds ($295.14 million) in aid to Myanmar. On average, the agency will spend 46.75 million pounds per fiscal year during this time period.
DfID will provide aid through a combination of large-scale multidonor trust funds, as well as by partnering with the United Nations and international and local nongovernmental organizations. Approximately 60 percent of DfID funding will be channeled through U.N. agencies and the rest through NGOs.
Funding priorities (fiscal years 2011-12 to 2014-15)
DfID will focus its aid to Myanmar on five key areas:
- Good governance and public financial management.
- Promoting responsible investment.
- Improving transparency.
- Strengthening the work of parliament.
- Helping the process of ethnic reconciliation.
Since aid delivery to Myanmar began, DfID has allocated the most funding to (1) emergency response (61.15 million pounds), (2) health (56.27 million pounds), and (3) population policies/programs and reproductive health (46.87 million pounds).
Currently, two of the three largest DfID projects in Myanmar are health related: Three MDG Fund: Addressing Essential Maternal and Child Health Needs of Poor and Vulnerable Women, Children and for People with HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria (40.06 million pounds), and Three Diseases Fund for HIV, TB and Malaria (34.1 million pounds). Another ongoing DfID project in Myanmar that received substantial funding is the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (36.06 million pounds).
Myanmar is one of DfID’s 27 focus countries. Since 2008, average DfID aid to Myanmar was between 35 million and 40 million pounds. Most analysts expect the aid volume to increase substantially through 2015 and beyond, as overall development conditions, including government institutions, improve now that civilian rule appears to be taking hold.
The presence of weak government institutions, however, remains a major impediment to the flow of aid in the country. In a study conducted by Transparency International in 2012, Myanmar ranked 172 out of 176 countries in terms of corruption. As a result, none of DfID’s resources are channeled through central government systems, prompting DfID to rely heavily on partnerships with multilateral organizations and NGOs to deliver aid.
DfID will continue to work closely with U.N. agencies to maximize aid impact and value for money. Its key U.N. partners are UNICEF and UNDP, both of which are instrumental to program implementation in areas of governance and social development. The U.N. Office for Project Services also plays a pivotal role in fund management, handling two major multidonor trust funds — one in the health sector and the other in livelihoods and food security.
In light of recent developments, the European Union has suspended its sanctions to Myanmar, and is poised to build stronger ties with the country. This is expected to increase funding significantly as new avenues for aid delivery are being opened. DfID is currently working with the World Bank to conduct an assessment of the Myanmar government’s financial management to create more durable government resource allocation and delivery systems.
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