By Min Min Zaw, Hannie Win (MNA), Photo: Ko Zaw (Kalay)
To allow people living in rural areas to work for rural development themselves and receive income at the same time, the Rural Development Department is implementing the Cash For Work Project, which aims to alleviate the losses caused by COVID-19 on the lives of people living in rural departments.
“The main focus is to create some jobs so that people living in rural regions can have a form of income while their daily income sources are halted by the spread of COVID-19,” explained U Khant Zaw, Director-General of the Rural Development Department. “We also want this to be supportive towards developing infrastructure in rural regions. This is why we are implementing the Cash For Work Project. It’s to allow people living in rural areas to work for rural development themselves and receive income at the same time.”
Testing action plans
The project will be implemented in 3,500 villages across the states and regions. But before the project is carried out in full force, the department is running pilot projects in one village in each state or region to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the venture.
The Union Government enacted the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) on 27 April 2020 to remedy the negative impact on the nation’s socio-economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rural Development Department is implementing Action 2.1.7 (D) of CERP by running the Cash For Work project to increase production in rural areas and develop their infrastructure. The Director-General said they aim to begin the full project at the beginning of July. The project will last from between three to four months. They will prioritize short-term development action plans that can be completed within this period, especially for providing jobs and income to the people living in the project designated villages. That’s why we select villages that have vulnerable rural populations.
The wages will be based on the minimum wage standards the Union Government has designated but they may be increased to meet regional prices according to local needs. The Director-General said this is why they have designated the minimum wage for the project at K4,800-K6,000.
Selecting three-month plans
The department is prioritizing tasks that can be completed within a short 3 months and contribute to both people’s income and local rural infrastructure through public participation. Some examples include digging up sewers and canals, cleaning dirty water, paving roads in the village, maintaining bridges, removing debris that can cause landslides, fencing water tanks and reservoirs and building them, linking water pipes, building and maintaining harbour bridges, building small-scale dams, retaining walls, sports grounds, school buildings, clinics, community halls, markets, and planting trees near water bodies and recreational areas.
The selection criteria will prioritize villages based on poverty, rate of unemployed residents or those without steady jobs, vulnerable populations, high rate of significantly affected by disease, ease of transport and regional stability, enthusiasm of local residents, unity, eager participation, the number of development requirements as shown by the Multi-Dimensional Index, and the number of people who have returned from abroad.
The department closely discusses and coordinates with Hluttaw representatives and the local Township Planning and Implementation Committee (TPIC) to select the villages for the project based on designated criteria.
Rural population participation
Director-General U Khant Zaw said while his department is taking the lead for the project, they are cooperating with Hluttaw representatives, relevant departments, village organizations and everyone concerned. They have designated rules to be followed in the implementation process.
He said if there are too many rules and standards then it would be difficult for the local people to participate when they are the target population to receive the project’s benefits. Their brief participation period will aim at development processes. Rural development is not just about big construction projects. It also includes tasks that can be completed by the local period without large technological requirements in a short time, said U Khant Zaw.
The village administrative body and the local village development committees will be closely monitoring and managing the action plans of the project.
The department pointed out that the Cash For Work project will not be implemented in villages that have already received the Rural Development Department’s Mya Sein Yaung Project or VDB projects in the current financial year. In addition, they will be careful not to have tasks coincide with plans from other ministries and will communicate effectively to ensure that. “There are villages that are already a part of other development projects,” said U Khant Zaw. “There are villages whose processes are going smoothly. That’s why we won’t be putting villages with projects or doing relatively well on the top of the list.”
The Director-General said they will not be considering those who own land. He said the project will allot K10 million to each of the 3,500 villages selected for the Cash For Work project. Spreading information and training related to the project will be funded by the World Bank and the information on the selection criteria will be disseminated to the public as well.
Feedback and suggestions welcomed
The Rural Development Department aims for transparency in the implementation of the project and will incorporate a feedback mechanism to tackle challenges as soon as possible. The department will announce phone numbers of concerned departments from the national level to the subnational and township levels in the villages selected for the project so that they may inquire more into the project and contact for suggestions, feedback or reporting issues. (Translated by Pen Dali)