Bago Citizens’ Budget reveals tiny tax take

By HEIN KO SOE | FRONTIER

YANGON — Bago Region residents pay on average just K1,000 each in tax to their regional government, budget figures released yesterday show.

The stake pulled in just K5 billion in taxes in the 2017-18 year from its population of nearly five million – enough to cover just three percent of the regional government’s expenditure.

Fifty-two percent of tax came from land, mining and excise and was collected by the General Administration Department. The next highest was fisheries with 25 percent. Tax income in Bago was down sharply from 2016-17, when region-level taxes totalled K12.1 billion.

The figures were revealed at the launch of the 2017-18 Citizens’ Budget in the regional capital Bago on Monday.

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Developed with assistance from the Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute, the Citizens’ Budgets aim to publicly release budget information in a simple and straightforward way. The aim is to increase transparency around the budget and encourage engagement with the budget process.

Since March 2016 the Asia Foundation and Renaissance Institute have been providing support to four state and region governments – Bago, Ayeyarwady and Tanintharyi regions and Kayin State – on public finance management, one area of which is Citizens’ Budgets.

The 2017-18 Citizens’ Budget was the first to be released by the Bago Region government and was prepared over a period of four months.

U Khin Maung Lwin, director of the Bago Region Budget Department, told Frontier at the launch that the regional governments can only collect a handful of taxes under the 2008 constitution.

“We can get that amount of money from just four sectors,” he said.

Ms Kim Ninh, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Myanmar, said many people mistakenly believe that they pay high levels of tax.

“But when we do the analysis it shows that people pay very low tax … I think that’s because of the [lack of] trust between the state and citizens,” she said. “If people trust that the government will use the money for the good of the people, they will pay more. So we have to work on that.”

Civil society representative Daw Khin Marlar Kyaw said that in the past people “never had the opportunity to access budget information”.

“Now the NLD government is inviting CSOs to the event where information on tax money is revealed and presented to the public,” she was quoted as saying in an Asia Foundation statement.

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