Resistance to change has emerged as an obstacle to the bold move to upgrade Yangon’s bus system, raising questions about the management capacity of the NLD as it pursues an ambitious reform agenda.
THE SUCCESS of the National League for Democracy government’s endeavours to achieve peace, development and a federal democratic Union depend not only on its relationship with the Tatmadaw, but also the management ability of its ministers at the national and state and regional level.
The Yangon Bus Service, championed by Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein and introduced in mid-January, has been the focus of much discussion in the regional hluttaw recently. As the nation’s biggest city, Yangon is the recipient of a big share of the national budget, and the successful implementation of the YBS will be regarded as a yardstick of an NLD government’s management ability.
The YBS replaces the bus system run by the Central Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, an organisation controlled and dominated by former military officers. The committee, known by its Myanmar acronym as Ma Hta Tha, was notorious for bribery, corruption and mismanagement.
Corrupt practices were rampant in Ma Hta Tha, including in the issuing of permits to operate lines, import buses and convert vehicles to run on CNG. There was no transparency in funding decisions.
The bus system under Ma Hta Tha was also sub-standard. Commuters endured old, crowded, uncomfortable buses, and rude drivers and conductors. Commuting by bus could be dangerous, especially for the elderly and pregnant women, because of the reckless drivers who flouted traffic laws.
This was mainly because drivers and conductors were paid commissions based on passengers carried, rather than receiving a monthly salary. The driver and conductor had to pay a fee to the bus owner and any fare income above that amount was pocketed.