Forthcoming Govt Body Aims to Get More Aid to More People

By Zarni Mann 25 May 2016

MANDALAY — Burma’s government intends to form a donor coordination body to scrutinize the country’s foreign aid so that it flows to where it is needed most.

According to the President’s Office, this new government body, set to be established soon, will be responsible for reviewing all international aid intended for use by the government for projects relating to national development and national planning.

“The donor coordination body will be formed by the government to ensure that aid, especially aid in the government sector, reaches its intended recipients,” said Zaw Htay, President’s Office spokesperson.

He added that this is also to avoid overlap and poor management of funds.

“There are many effective projects, but there are also many ineffective ones, where the aid only reaches 30 to 40 percent of the people [who need it] while the other 60 percent is used for the project’s staff, logistics, transportation and so on,” Zaw Htay said.

He explained that much of the foreign aid that has gone toward government development projects in recent years has been hampered by a lack of coordination between ministries.

“That’s why this body will operate according to the direction of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—to make sure that aid goes, effectively, to where it’s needed most,” Zaw Htay said, adding that, at least initially, the body will accept only that aid which is necessary to spur Burma’s growth in order to avoid a situation in which development is driven too prominently by foreign players.

Zaw Htay added that the duties and functions of this new body are not yet set in stone.

“It’s still too early to say whether the donor coordination body will also investigate the foreign aid received by many NGOs and CSOs in the private sector,” Zaw Htay said. “But if [this sort of oversight] is needed for the good of the country, then the body might try to coordinate with them as well.”

Kyaw Thu, from local NGO Paung Ku, expressed support for the government’s latest move to address Burma’s perennial challenge of processing foreign aid.

“A similar donor coordination body and NGO guidelines have existed since 2006, but NGOs’ capabilities have been limited. From what we understand, the aim of this new body isn’t to control foreign aid but rather to promote cooperation and increase efficiency,” he said.

“Sometimes, such as when collecting data and researching, it’s necessary [for an NGO] to hire foreign experts, and it’s costly to arrange the logistics and transportation. We can’t afford for money not to go to locals. To ensure effectiveness, the donor coordination body must understand these various projects and generate better cooperation with donors.”