Myanmar’s decentralization of governance, financing and service delivery is taking place against aparticularly challenging backdrop. Myanmar is a country with considerable geographic and socialdiversity and a history of isolation, conflict and underdevelopment. Decades of civil conflict and tight military rule have marked Myanmar’s political, social and economic life since its independence from British rule in 1948, and left a host of historical institutional legacies including underrepresentation of women, civil service norms that prioritize compliance over performance, bureaucratic silos and weak public investment management, that still impact the country today. Political and economic transitions, begun in 2011, have promoted growth and improved welfare outcomes, though the benefits have not been equally shared with all groups or geographic areas. There remain extreme variations in the provision and quality of public infrastructure and services, reflected in large disparities per capita income and humandevelopment outcomes. These inequalities are widening, economic growth is spatially concentratedin the growth poles of Yangon and Mandalay, while rural and remote areas, such as those on the Shanplateau, are isolated from the centers of growth. The Myanmar subnational PER examines Myanmar’s nascent subnational institutions, focusing on governance, union-local administrative and fiscal relations and service delivery from a local perspective. The aim is to identify pragmatic and practicable policy options for incrementally strengthening the institutional capacity and inclusiveness of subnational governments within the confines of the current constitution. While political debate on the future shape of a federal Myanmar continues, reforming local governance institutions, within the considerable space available in the current constitution, as suggested throughout the PER, is an important way to support “federalism from below”, promoting a more sustainable, inclusive and accountable system of governance and fiscal management that better reflects Myanmar’s considerable social and economic heterogeneity.
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