Commerce Minister Waffles on Inquiry About Rising Food Costs

By The Irrawaddy 17 November 2016

RANGOON — The Union Minister of Commerce failed to provide an answer to Parliament on Wednesday about how the government will fight rising food prices.

During the legislative session, a National League for Democracy Lower House lawmaker questioned whether the government had any plan to control growing food prices, citing increases in costs similar to those under the previous, military-backed government.

Rather than outlining a plan, commerce minister U Than Myint spent the 10-minute answering period reciting theories on the correlation between inflation and rising prices.

“In a market economy, prices are determined by demand and supply. It’s not suitable for the government to control the prices directly,” the minister said.

The response earned U Than Myint a warning from House Speaker U Win Myint: “be short and to the point on the plan.”

Also unimpressed by the minister’s response, lawmaker Daw Khin Hnin Thit repeated the question, attracting an intervention from the Speaker who said if the minister was not yet ready for the answer, he could reply at a later time.

“It’s a very wide issue so, I want to make a request for a detailed explanation in the next session,” said a relieved U Than Myint.

The lawmaker’s question comes at a time when many Burmese are struggling to cope with rising prices, while the minimum wage has been set at 3,600 kyats per day (US$2.78). In Rangoon, the minimum price tag on a single meal at a roadside food vendor increased to 1,000 kyats from 800 this month, while a pyi of rice—a traditional measurement used for the Burmese staple food—rose to 1,800 from 1,500 kyats as well.