Interview: Axel van Trotsenburg
How would you assess Myanmar’s institutional capacity to implement its development goals?
AXEL VAN TROTSENBURG: Myanmar is going through a triple transition: from military rule to democratic governance; from conflict to peace; and from a state-oriented to a market-oriented economy. As one of the country’s leading development partners, the World Bank hopes its partnership with Myanmar can help its people make this momentous transition. Despite the numerous challenges that are common in countries at this stage of development, we are encouraged by Myanmar’s progress towards its stated goal of democratic governance. The government has professed a strong commitment to creating a more effective and transparent state. It has signed on to transparency schemes like the Open Government Partnership and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. It is setting up new organisations to monitor and oversee official behaviour, such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Rule of Law Commission in Parliament. The government has begun to clarify the functions of state institutions and develop agencies’ capacity to carry out their mandates. It has also launched substantial reforms to establish mechanisms for effective management of public funds, and has begun to increase the amount of funds available for spending at state, regional, district and township levels, which will help align development projects with local needs. Such decentralisation measures, if introduced and implemented in a consultative, consensus-based manner, can play an important role in Myanmar’s political stability.
What is the World Bank doing to speed up Myanmar’s adoption of modern farming techniques?
TROTSENBURG: The World Bank will support Myanmar’s efforts to increase agricultural productivity with an integrated programme that combines improvements in irrigation and drainage, extension services, and value-chain upgrades. The programme aims to boost crop yields and develop a competitive rural sector that offers opportunities to all rural households, with special focus on female-headed households and poor or landless farmers. Specifically, we are providing 4500 farmers with access to improved agricultural techniques so that they can boost the yields of rice crops and provide better irrigation and drainage services covering 10,000 ha by 2017. We will further support agricultural productivity enhancements by providing agro-meteorology services (e.g., weather predictions and agricultural advisories for planting, harvesting and crop selection), facilitating inland water transport for agricultural outputs, and improving the state’s capacity to manage and deliver water resources to farmers.
What role will the Myanmar Country Partnership Framework (CPF) play in the reduction of poverty?
TROTSENBURG: The CPF focuses on reducing poverty, providing basic services and stimulating the private sector in an inclusive way so that the poor and vulnerable share in the benefits of current reforms. The three-year CPF, Myanmar’s first full country strategy since 1984, will provide up to $1.6bn in credits, loans and grants, as well as technical assistance from the International Development Association. It will help reduce poverty in the rural areas where more than 75% of Myanmar’s poor live. It will help 3.5m people gain new or better access to electricity, with another 2.5m people benefiting from improved rural infrastructure and access to public services. The CPF will improve the quality, access and delivery of essential services like health care and schools, and will help achieve the government’s goal of universal health care by 2030. Last, it will stimulate job growth by building a dynamic private sector, raising the number of people and businesses that use financial services by 200,000 and thus facilitating financing of up to $40m by 2017.
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