Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Offers Struggling Families COVID-19 Cash

By Aung Thiha 5 November 2020

Yangon — Myanmar’s government says it will provide a fourth round of cash handouts for those struggling because of COVID-19.

However, only the Yangon regional government has announced the cash plan and The Irrawaddy could not confirm if it would be replicated elsewhere.

“This time the government will provide 40,000 kyats per household [US$31]. We don’t know on which day the payments will be made but I guess it will be after the election,” said U Than Swe, a Yangon regional lawmaker representing Seikgyikanaungto.

Since COVID-19 hit Myanmar in March, the government has provided cash assistance for low-income families with village and ward administrators and lawmakers making lists of low-income families and distributing assistance.

The government also distributed rice, cooking oil, salt, beans and onions to nearly 4 million households who lacked a regular income during the 10-day New Year holiday in April at a reported cost of around 50 billion kyats ($36 million). The food packages were worth 15,000 to 18,000 kyats ($11-13), depending on prices across the country.

Since May, the government has three times provided 20,000 kyats ($15) per household. This time, the government says it will provide 40,000 kyats, also covering those who did not previously receive assistance and those who were made redundant in the second wave of COVID-19.

U Nay Min Tun, an administrator in Hlaing Tharyar Township, said: “Assistance has previously been given to some 40,000 households but this time we will target over 100,000 homes.

“Previously, some people did not apply as they thought it was a one-off payout. This time, more people are suffering from financial hardships and the number of applicants has increased,” he added.

Township administrators and lawmakers in Ayeyarwady Region and Rakhine State told The Irrawaddy that they did not know of similar plans.

U Soe Win, Rakhine State parliament lawmaker for Gwa Township, said: “We don’t know yet about it. We only know about the assistance programs by the state government.”

Those struggling in Rakhine State have received cash assistance from the Union government three times and basic food from the state government. He said Rakhine residents were in greater need because of the armed conflict in the state.

Though the government’s cash handouts are small, they provide breathing space for those struggling to make ends meet, said U Thein Win of Pantanaw Township in Ayeyarwady Region.

Meanwhile, there has been criticism that some recipients did not receive their full handout while other households received double payments and some well-off families received handouts.

The Union government provided 71.1 billion kyats ($55.3 million) in the first round of handouts, followed by 218.1 billion kyats ($169.8 million) and 113.5 billion kyats ($88.3 million), according to the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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