Parliamentary Meeting – October 10th, 2016

Parliamentary Meeting

The Revenue Estimation Model training gave way to more extensive discussion the following week when Professor Robert Conrad visited Myanmar. This was Dr. Conrad’s second meeting with the Joint Public Accounts Committee. During his first visit in July, there was much information sharing, discussion of the current state of Myanmar’s tax system, and brainstorming about challenges with the existing tax system that should be addressed.

During this second meeting, the previous conversation was translated into a targeted discussion about the role of Parliament, and particularly the JPAC, in tax reform. There were a few specific priorities that were addressed.

First, Professor Conrad reiterated his guiding principles for long-term tax reform: The tax system should be simplified so it can be administered more effectively, and additionally, legislation should be clarified so current gaps in the tax system are eliminated.

Second, Professor Conrad encouraged the government to prioritize simple, short-term reforms to generate momentum for these long-run reform goals. These should be easy steps that can be legislated in the next budget and effectively implemented in the next fiscal year. These changes can form the foundation for more comprehensive reform in the future.

Third, the conversation focused on the role of the Committee in overseeing taxation measures that are not directly included in the tax bill and Union budget. Most significant is the recent investment law, which includes a number of tax exemptions for investment. In order to assure coherent and effective tax reform, the legislative process should assure that the JPAC oversee all tax related measures, rather than only those that are explicitly in the budget.

Finally, the conversation shifted to next steps. Professor Conrad and the Renaissance Institute left with a significant amount of homework. The JPAC will continue to learn about the REM as one part of its work to expand its oversight capacity. They will work with Professor Conrad to discuss tax policy changes for the next budget. They will also continue to work with Renaissance Institute to facilitate increased public and civil society participation in the budget process.

There was much question and answer, and a vibrant exchange throughout this entire conversation. Renaissance hopes that this will lead to continued exchange with the JPAC as it works to make tax reform a pillar of improved public financial management in Myanmar. This can, in turn, help to jumpstart a number of related economic reforms and fund a number of government expenditure priorities, such as healthcare and education reform and improved infrastructure.

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