December 16, 2017
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A Genuine Federal Union

  • Category: Ed/Op

(Editorial) - On August 1, during a radio speech, President U Thein Sein said "It seems we are moving closer to the advent of a genuine federal union that we have all been dreaming for, for six decades."

The speech is inspiring and welcoming. It exemplifies the intent of the government to entrust more power to states and regional governments by decentralizing power at the center. It also reflects the government's attempt to unilaterally resolve the problems of power sharing using federal union principles.

Power sharing between sub-national governments and the center during the last 30 months of the President’s tenure, was quite unsatisfactory and not realized well. It was, perhaps, due to constrain in the form of constitutional provisions. The President's speech openly admitted this fact and the situation in which the present government has to operate.

Parliamentarians from Rakhine state have been trying to submit a benefit sharing bill for natural resources in the Parliament. It is a legitimate move and a right that cannot be denied to the states and regions, keeping in mind interest of the people.

Furthermore, the Shan state Forestry and Mining Minister, Sai Aik Pao recently remarked upon the present Constitution and stated that states and regional governments do not enjoy the freedom to make decision even with its budget matters. He said that the union government should share half its budget to states and regions, in a speech made on August 1, at Taung Gyi Shan Nationalities Democracy Party office.

This might not be the best solution of the problems in the country, but his words reflect the sentiments of the people on justice and benefits they seek from the union government.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Myanmar Development Resource Institute (MDRI) has reported in their research findings, that chief ministers of states and regions are appointed by the center and not elected; ministers in state and regional governments are powerless, and the distribution of budget between the union government and state and regional governments is extremely unfair.

Based on their findings, the report states that decentralization is still a major challenge for Myanmar’s on going reforms.

Although the government in our country has moved from an authoritarian to a more pluralistic one, and even though more reforms are underway, there are still many challenges in terms of power and resource sharing between the center and peripheral governments. These obstacles cannot be skipped or avoided and it is our responsibility to tackle them.

Mizzima see it is as a rather good opportunity for the country's future that the central government and states and regions are negotiating power sharing issues, which was unimaginable for more than six decades.
 
As the present debates are based on unity, cooperation and peaceful coexistence, we hope all deliberations will take us closer to a genuine federal union.

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