Myanmar and the World Bank: Reengaging through Community Driven Development, to tackle poverty in rural villages

November 22, 2012


YANGON, November 22, 2012 --- The World Bank and Myanmar marked an important milestone this month, with the Interim Strategy and National Community Driven Development (CDD) Project endorsed and approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors. After opening an office in Yangon in August, the Bank is steadily stepping up support for reforms, to ensure that development programs benefit all of the people of Myanmar, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Poverty is all too evident in Myanmar’s rural areas, home to over 70 % of the population. Decades of  underinvestment have taken their toll – villagers have limited access to services and infrastructure, and have had little voice in the development process.

The National CDD Project aims to address these challenges at the earliest opportunity, aligned with the government’s goal to change the way infrastructure and services are delivered to the people – from ‘top down’ to ‘bottom up.’ 

“The Board approval just marks a first step in the process to establish this new community driven project and paves the way for further consultations with civil society and local communities,” said Kanthan Shankar, the Bank’s Country Manager in Myanmar.

“Local communities will  be able to choose how they want to spend the grant funds – whether it’s roads, bridges, health clinics or fixing up classrooms or providing drinking water“, he said.

Moving community driven development forward

Bank-supported community driven development projects have been successful in reducing poverty in other countries in East Asia. In Indonesia, the proportion of households moving out of poverty in poor sub-districts was 9.2 % higher, and in the Philippines, the annual per capita expenditure of poor households was five percent higher, as compared to communities not supported by the projects.

Lessons learned from these experiences are helping to inform the Myanmar project. For example, the project will be implemented in phases over six years, since the Bank learned that a longer time frame is needed to improve effectiveness. 

Over the next few months, non government organizations and firms – with a track record for  doing community based activities – will be identified to work at the union and township levels to provide technical assistance, training and support for the project. An operations manual to guide implementation will also be developed. Further consultations with civil society and communities involved in the project, along with training, will be conducted. 

“Consultations are at the heart of our re-engagement in Myanmar,” said Mr. Shankar. “The Bank is committed to supporting full and broad based government-led consultations as we continue to work to  prepare this project for implementation.”

" Local communities will be able to choose how they want to spend the grant funds – whether it’s roads, bridges, health clinics or fixing up classrooms or providing drinking water "

Kanthan Shankar

Country Manager for Myanmar, the World Bank

Promoting women’s participation

At the village level, villagers themselves will elect members to serve on the committees that oversee the implementation of small infrastructure projects. To ensure transparency, regular public meetings will be held, and committee members will report back to the whole village on how the money is being spent and on the status of implementation of the agreed community projects. Measures will also be in place to ensure that women are represented equally in the committees.

“It is important that women have a say in what’s happening. Each village will elect both female and male representatives”, Mr. Shankar explained.

Funding for the project

The project is being funded by an $80 million grant from the Bank. The government of Myanmar will also contribute about $6.3 million. The Department of Rural Development will implement the project, with the Bank’s financial and technical assistance.

The project will operate in 15 of the country’s townships, selected based on three criteria: primarily poverty, as well as absence of other external funding and the commitment of the regional government to the objectives of the project. The first three townships set to benefit from the project will be identified soon. Three annual grants of on average of $27,000 each will be given directly to about 640 village tracts for community infrastructure.

Laying the foundation to promote growth and poverty reduction

Helping rural communities receive infrastructure and services to accelerate poverty reduction sits at the core of the Bank’s Interim Strategy for Myanmar, which will guide the Bank’s work in the country for the next 18 months.  The Strategy seeks to lay the foundation to enable Myanmar to achieve inclusive  economic growth, with emphasis on supporting reforms and helping to build strong institutions for improved economic management and governance. The Bank will also make available much needed data and analyses related to Myanmar, as well as share global and regional knowledge that will provide solutions to urgent development issues.

During this initial 18 month period, the Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President, Pamela Cox, said the Bank was looking at providing interest free loans of $165 million for new projects,  once Myanmar’s arrears to the Bank and Asian Development Bank are cleared,  expected in early 2013.