Interview

‘No Project Enjoys Special Privileges’: Deputy Minister of National Planning and Finance

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 28 July 2016

Recently, there has been a lot of criticism over the failures of the new government to make considerable changes in the economic sector, as well as the stagnation of businesses during the first three months of its term. Amidst such criticisms, what has the ministry done successfully?

It is difficult for a ministry to adopt new policies and make progress quickly. However, some tasks were completed during the first 100 days, and there are also some tasks to be continued after these 100 days. Tasks to be carried out within the period were announced in newspapers and they were implemented accordingly. As two ministries were merged, the number of departments has increased. Many of them are departments that have to deal with the public, and we will continue working to fulfill the public’s needs.

Are there problems caused by the merging the two ministries and their staff members?

The main problem is the lack of time available. There is only one minister for the two ministries. It is very difficult to manage time as there are daily reports, and reports from other departments and meetings. The minister also has to deal with foreign guests and travel abroad, as this is important. As other functions are run by respective departments, there is no problem there.

Has recent budget allocation caused any headache for the ministry? There are complaints over budgets in Burma’s states and regions. How is the ministry handling these complaints?

Budgets are allocated in line with the [2008] Constitution. States and regions are allowed to collect some taxes according to the law and add the tax money into its fund and spend it. Similarly, the Union government will also do the same with taxes it is allowed to collect by law. Although there was only one budget in the past, at present, we have the Union budget as well as state and regional budgets. So there are Union funds and state and regional funds. Under Section 230 [of the Constitution], the Union budget has to provide funds if states and regions do not have enough. Moreover, the Union government can also provide funds for special projects or issue low-interest loans to state and regional governments. This means that the Union government is responsible for providing funds when they need it and determines how much will be provided to each state or region. We study how other countries are handling such issues. Everything has to be taken into consideration so that the budget is allocated without bias and in a fair manner.

 How do you know how much to give to each state or region?

No matter how much they ask for, we provide them with what they should receive. It seems that Yangon [Division] receives only a small budget but it has collected a large sum from taxes, which the regional government can spend. The Union government also provides funds to the region. Chin State also receives a small budget. The Union government provides them with what it should receive. They can work for development. States and regions that are underdeveloped have to try to make progress like the others. Developed ones can do more. The Union government wants to provide more funds to them. It has been trying to allocate budgets in a fair manner, as well as it can.

The Rangoon Chief Minister said that he found it difficult to do what he wanted for the region due to an insufficient budget. How would you respond to that?

As I have just said, the Union government does not consider the region alone. It has to take all 14 states and regions into consideration. Others also have things they want to do for their states or regions. They also need development as much as Yangon [Division] does. As Yangon receives more money from taxes, it is necessary for the regional government to decide which projects should be prioritized based on its earnings. Although the Union government wants to provide more funds to everyone, it cannot afford to do that. First priority is given to what is most important, and second priorities are something that cannot be done because there are just not enough funds.

It was said during a parliamentary session that there are differences in tax collection. How does the ministry manage this?

Tax collection varies year by year. In budgets, there are 18 types of tax with their own targets. The targets depend on the amount collected in the previous year. It is also necessary to estimate the amount for the upcoming year. According to the upcoming year’s tax law, tax rates and exemptions are set. Based on these, the relevant departments estimate the targets. Some targets are met while others are not; this is a phenomenon that occurs every year. Therefore, 11 tax items went beyond their targets while seven failed to meet their targets during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

During the term of the previous government, special projects required approval by the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. There were accusations that those who were close to the government got approvals easily. How will the current government grant approvals without bias? How is the ministry handling this issue?

This will be done in accordance with the planning law. There are planning laws for each year. The Union government as well as state and regional governments have their own responsibilities, known as the sectoral and the regional plans. Sectoral plans are implemented by the Union government, while regional plans are materialized by state or regional governments. There are also township plans. There is no project that enjoys special privileges. These are the issues that should be settled at the planning commission.

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