Burma Parliament Approves Controversial Defense Budget

Burmese soldiers march during ceremonies on March 27, 2010, marking the 65th anniversary Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw. (Photo: AP)

RANGOON—Burma’s Union Parliament approved the government’s US $1.15 billion military budget on Friday with an overwhelming majority. More than $600 million will be spent on military hardware, accounting for over half of the controversial budget this year, according to documents obtained by The Irrawaddy.

In a joint vote by the Upper House and Lower House in Naypyidaw, 445 parliamentarians voted in support of the proposed military budget, 60 voted for a reduction of the budget and 7 MPs abstained.

The budget approval will again make the military by far the largest recipient of public funds, granting it more than one-fifth of the total budget—slightly lower than the amount it was awarded last year.

By comparison, this year’s proposed national budget allocates just 4.4 percent of government funds to education and 3.9 percent to health care in the impoverished country, according to opposition MPs.

Steven Thar Bate, an MP with the Chin National Party, had proposed a reduction of military spending to 17 percent of the overall national budget, but his proposal was rejected by the Union Parliament, where the military still holds sway.

Under the 2008 Constitution, military appointees hold 25 percent of seats in Parliament. Many other MPs with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party are former members of the armed forces.

It is the first time however, that the Ministry of Defense has shared details of its annual military budget.

The documents show that it will spend about $631.1 million on military hardware, with about $200 million going to aircraft, $93 million on ships, $30 million on military vehicles, $195 million on military accessories, $112 million on military industries and $1.1 million on weapons.

The remainder of the budget will go on construction projects, including the building of army bases, roads, military-owned businesses and maintaining military universities and schools.

Although it is thought to be a minor decrease on previous budgets, but the size of expenditure – accounting for 21 percent of the total budget – remains controversial.

Figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show there are only four other countries that spend over 20 percent of their government budget on defense: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Singapore.

Moreover, the government’s figures may represent only part of military spending. Under the Special Funds Law enacted in March 2011, the military is able to access additional funds without parliamentary oversight. This can include the use of Burma’s abundant natural resources to pay for military hardware purchased abroad.

A report by IHS Jane’s, a London-based defense consultancy, this week stated: “Both Moscow and Beijing are known to favor military deals based on deliveries of natural gas and such a payment mechanism is likely to have underpinned major recent deals.”

Earlier this week opposition MPs criticized the high spending on defense.

“The government should use more money for education and health sectors,” said Dr Saw Naing, a senior member of the National League for Democracy from South Okkalapa Township.

Another opposition MP from the Upper Hose, who declined to be named, said that officers in Parliament had approached the opposition to support the defense budget.

“Some of the military MPs unofficially request us not to reduce budget because it is already the lowest among neighboring countries,” he said. “They also said that reducing military budget will hurt national security. I think what they said is right.”

4 Responses to Burma Parliament Approves Controversial Defense Budget

  1. Citizens you should be very disappointed with the government’s uneven budget. The Burmese generals continue to pull the strings and insist on wasting vast amount on the defense budget, while key areas such as education and health are ignored.

  2. Military budget is not the only cost for Burma. How about ethnic militia spending to fight against central government? How about side affect of war to our economy? Does any one know what is the cost of civil war? Can we even protect our border well with the most expensive price that we are paying today? Mandalay is Chinese city now, and Arakan state is almost own by illegal alieans while we kill each other. Can we be strong by killing each other? If you are interested in my point of view, join for Burma peace and force Burmese military to create genuine Federal state for the sake of the country and union. Only genuine Federalism will bring true lasting peace in Burma. Only when we have true peace than we can protect our border well and we will not be embarace in global society and will be free from accusation of entire Burmese population are racist. Irrawaddy News has responsibilities of how much ethnic militia spend for their cause and negative effects and the cost to Burma.

  3. Budget! Budget! Budget!

    What sort of sick charade again is that?

    To spend the money of 50 odd million people’s possessions and earning for this sick charade complete with exorbitantly paid (bribed) c,own dressed conceited idiots is too much already.

    Who of those doing this exultant thing called voting has any fxxxing clue about how much money these Sit-thars are stealing from the country to star with to know how it is to be divided? And where does this largest narco-economy in the world come in?

    Every single pyar of this money, robbed, stolen and simply taken off the people is used exclusively in Burma to kill the Burmese citizens. And this is not a secret. Every one knows that. Still -even for token useless gesture- those Gound-pounded clowns decided to “Vote” (ha,ha,ha) to give money to the killers of the people just like Tin Maung Maung Than suggested. And there is PEACE!

    How sick this government guys can get?
    How sick sucking up “Bamar Media” people can get. How sick “gaund-paunded clowns on huge benefit and salary and perks can get?

    Enjoy while you can.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    The Burma Army wants MORE MONEY!
    For WHAT?
    Don’t TELL ME it is for NATIONAL SECURITY man!
    Just say it is for SECURING the PEOPLE of BURMA under the MILITARY BOOT only.
    The military is getting the LION’S SHARE of the BUDGET I see.
    And the UMEHL is MAKING MONEY out of the NATURAL RESOURCES of the country on the other hand as well.
    Truth to say the MILITARY and the GENERALS are MAKING MONEY in Burma guys!
    Grabbing lands, killing people and making money – via joint ventures with the Chinese communists CARTING/CARRYING away Burma’s WEALT and WOMEN as well since decades ago until today – on the part of Than Shwe/Thein Sein led lot at Naypyidaw certainly WARRANTED CALLS for INVESTIGATION into CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY/WAR CRIMES no less of course.
    Than Shwe has CRAFTED a SYSTEM that handsomely SERVED the INTERESTS of the ELITE RULING CLIQUE (generals) their CRONIES while the BURMA ARMY is EXPLOITED to PLAY the ROLE of the VILLAIN SERVING to PROTECT the PERSONAL SECURITY/SAFETY of Than Shwe led mob at Naypyidaw and of course the CRONIES’ and their WEALTH as well no less today.

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