Taxation Challenges in War-Torn Regions of Myanmar

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – October 19

MoeMaKa, October 20, 2023

Taxation Challenges in War-Torn Regions of Myanmar

As reported by BBC Myanmar News, Min Aung Hlaing, the chairman of the military council, conveyed during an economic committee meeting attended by state/region premiers that expenses should be requested only when essential. The military leader emphasized that sectors such as transportation, health, and education should seek funds only if genuinely required.

The military leader’s perspective may be based on figures and reports in official documents, potentially limiting his awareness of ground realities. Numerous regions in Myanmar are marred by armed conflicts, hindering administrative and developmental efforts. Civil departments find themselves unable to function properly, focusing on survival amidst the threat of assassination rather than executing administrative duties.

For instance, employees of the Road and Bridge Department in Sagaing, Magway, Kachin State, Karenni State, Mandalay, and Tanintharyi have been unable to collect tolls and maintain roads due to ongoing armed conflicts. Strategic highways like Kalay-Gangaw, Sagaing-Monywa, Mandalay-Mogok, Sagaing-Myitkyina, are subject to military tax collection at security gates, hindering road maintenance work. Engineers overseeing these sections are unable to submit tenders for road maintenance companies as in the past.

In the education sector, schools in remote villages often lack attention from the Military Council’s Education Department, leading to closures. Schools across the country are affected as teachers participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), rendering national budget allocations unnecessary. Regions facing these challenges include Sagaing, Karenni, Chin, Kachin, Northern Magway, Tanintharyi, and Karen states.

The healthcare sector experiences a similar scenario, with district hospitals and rural clinics unable to operate, causing a shortage of medical attention. Regions face challenges in managing healthcare expenses. The actual handling of expenses in these regions by relevant regional officials from the military council remains unclear.

While urban areas like Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Pathein, and Taunggyi contribute to tax collections, rural areas present challenges in collecting taxes effectively.

Armed groups erect tollgates on highways, a prevalent practice in rural regions. Various organizations, spanning regions, impose taxes on goods, fuel, medicine, consumer goods, resource extraction, leading to significantly higher prices than in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

In the current context, funds and taxes are crucial for the success of revolutionary forces engaged in armed struggle. No group restricts tax collection in their controlled areas, while military forces impose excessive tolls on those passing through their regions for security reasons.

As people in these conflict-ridden areas endure the economic fallout of war, they find themselves compelled to share the burdens of war costs.

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