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Is Myanmar in danger of being aid dependent?

There is common concern that if countries receive large amounts of international aid it can actually undermine, rather than help, development processes.

In particular if there is an imbalance between foreign aid funds and funds raised from taxes, it means that the accountability relationship between a government and its citizens can break down.

Some point to countries like Cambodia - where in the late 1990s foreign aid was more than double the amount of the country’s whole tax revenue - and argue that this contributed to the country’s ongoing governance problems.

If public services like health and education are backed by foreign aid money, then key leaders can potentially concentrate, not on the needs of their citizens, but on maintaining their own power and wealth.

So what about Myanmar?

Well before 2011 (with the exception of the Nargis response) Myanmar received very low levels of aid compared with neighbouring countries, or countries around the world with a similar level of poverty.

There was certainly no danger of aid dependency - though the Myanmar military was of course creating a range of governance problems of its own.

But the last few years have seen massive increases in levels of aid and also profound changes in leadership.

Does this mean that Myanmar is now in danger of becoming aid dependent?

In the next few weeks on this Forum we are going to look closely at aid figures and see whether or not they tell a tale of aid dependency.

pic: Kulvinder Singh Matharu

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