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The time is now for Myanmar to dramatically increase social budgeting for children, says UNICEF

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YANGON - 6 November 2013 – While the parliament is discussing the supplementary budget for 2013-14, UNICEF today called upon both the Myanmar executive and legislature to put children first when considering how to allocate Myanmar’s extensive, ongoing income from ample natural resources. Most recent data as provided by the International Monetary Fund, suggests that as part of the current Myanmar reform package, the Myanmar Government has increased current health and education spending over the last year by 78 and 30 per cent respectively. However, even with this increase current spending still represents less than 2 per cent of Myanmar’s Gross Domestic Product.

“While UNICEF strongly supports the current Myanmar reform process, the time for enhanced spending on children is now,” said Mr Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Yangon. “Reform presents real opportunities for a successful transition from a heavily natural resource-reliant economy to an economy that leverages the skills and expertise of its human capital. It also represents a new opportunity to re-commit to children, and to the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),” he continued. As a state party to the CRC, Myanmar is required to take all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights of the child including by undertaking such measures to the maximum extent of its available resources in accordance with CRC Article 4.

UNICEF today released a report From Natural Resources to Human Capital: Practical, Feasible, Immediate Resourcing Solutions for Myanmar’s Children. Key findings of the report include:

· Almost 0.9% of revenues from new natural gas projects would provide for the purchase of all the vaccines needed annually across Myanmar.
· Less than 9 days of natural gas revenues is all that is needed to ensure 1 teacher per primary school grade per year across Myanmar.
· One extra dollar in tax collected for each kilogram of jade could have built almost 14,600 classrooms over the last 9 years.
· Just over one quarter of Myanmar’s 2010 sales from the auction of precious and semi-precious stones could have provided for a universal child benefit of 15,000 Kyat per month for all Myanmar children under 5.
· The Myanmar Government only needs to increase actual tax collected on hardwood extraction by up to 0.6% to secure the annual salary of 6,000 social workers.

UNICEF’s extensive experience on social budgeting globally suggests that investing in the social sector also builds human capital and generates employment. It reduces distributional conflict, enhances social cohesion, and lessens gender, ethnic and regional disparities. “Myanmar is blessed with an abundance of natural resources which can be turned into meaningful, sustainable, impactful social investments right now, starting with children,” said Mr Bainvel. One of the key lessons learnt globally when transitioning from a lower to a middle income country and upwards to an advanced economy is that successful countries do not first become wealthy then decide to invest in human capital. Rather, they become wealthy by investing in both physical and human capital simultaneously. “Equitable access to quality social services is both good for people and for the economy,” said Mr Bainvel. “For mineral-rich countries, investing natural resource revenues in expanded health and education services and social transfers - like pensions, family allowances and social assistance - is fundamental at this juncture because return on investment is very high. The time for investing in children is now,” he concluded. [ends]

Background
UNICEF today released two reports on social budgeting. The first report - From Natural Resources to Human Capital: Practical, Feasible, Immediate resourcing solutions for Myanmar’s Children - is a quick scan of what can be done now to increase fiscal space and thus resources and investments for children. The report was commissioned by UNICEF and prepared by an international expert. Myanmar is a country blessed with an astonishing amount of natural resources. Expected to grow in the future, income available for public financing purposes is currently largely coming from the natural resources sector and from fast-paced economic development.

The second – Social Sector Public Budget Allocations and Spending in Myanmar – is the first analysis ever published on how budget is allocated to the three social sectors mainly responding to children - health, education and social welfare. Taking advantage of the decision of the Myanmar Government to disclose information on the budget law for the first time in 2012, UNICEF engaged national and international experts to conduct the study The report analyses data related to the Budget Law 2012-2103 noting that more data will be shared soon by other agencies conducting more in-depth analyses. This includes through the upcoming Public Expenditure Review that the World Bank is completing with the Myanmar Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.

These two reports are grounded in evidence which suggests that to accelerate results for its children, Myanmar must continue to significantly increase its allocation of resources to the social sector. Even if efforts to improve efficiency in allocations are important, at this particular stage of Myanmar’s development, it is increasing resources that will generate quick and important wins for children. Both reports are available at: www.unicef.org/myanmar.

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information please contact:

Kirsten Sjolander, Interim-in-Charge, Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95 9 421 177 294 (m), ksjolander@unicef.org.

Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m).

 

 
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