NAYPYITAW — The Defense Ministry on Tuesday asked for a budget of more than 1.3 trillion kyats (US$1 billion) for a six-month period—an amount higher than the combined total of the health and education budgets—as Parliament discussed the budget for a transitional period ahead of the 2018-19 fiscal year, which will start on Oct. 1.
The defense ministry’s proposed budget includes more than 2 billion kyats for military operations.
Lawmakers of the National League for Democracy (NLD) said that the budget requested by the Ministry of Defense made up 12.56 percent of the total budget proposal, while the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Sports asked for 7.56 percent and 3.93 percent respectively, adding up to only 11.46 percent of the total budget.
“During the term of the previous government, student activists demanded that the education budget be increased to 20 percent of the national budget. It seemed as though the education budget increased under the current government, but in reality, it didn’t because the budget was for two ministries – the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Science and Technology,” he explained, as the NLD government had incorporated the Ministry of Science and Technology into the education ministry.
The budget proposed by the Health and Sports Ministry was only 400 billion kyats for a six months period, and that amount is not sufficient to spend both on the health and sports sectors, he added.
Deputy Minister for Defense Maj-Gen Myint Nwe told Parliament that the Defense Ministry is expected to earn 31.761 billion kyats in normal revenue; its capital expenditure is expected to be 611.087 billion kyats; its normal expenditure, 723.107 billion kyats; and total expenditure is, therefore, 1.33 trillion kyats for the six-month transitional period.
He told Parliament, “The money is used to implement plans to strengthen the structure of soldiers, weapons, equipment for perpetuity of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Union.”
Lower House lawmaker U Tun Tun of Pwintbyu Township, who was on the budget scrutinizing committee, said that the defense budget is rarely cut, but when the Defense Ministry asked for an additional budgetary top-up for the 2017-18 fiscal year, the committee cut around 280 million kyats because government agencies are restricted by law from obtaining an extra budget of more than 10 percent of their main budget.
“The defense budget has never been trimmed. However, we will check whether the army asked for its budget in accordance with financial rules and regulations. If we find that the budget was increased unnecessarily, we will scrutinize and cut it,” he said.
To compare the defense budgets for normal expenditures, the Defense Ministry asked for 609.627 billion kyats for the first half of 2016-17 FY, 827.149 billion kyats for the first half of 2017-18 FY, and 723.107 billion kyats for the six-month period in 2018.
And to compare the defense budgets for capital expenditures, it asked for 168.498 billion kyats for the first half of 2016-17 FY, 622.440 billion kyats for the first half of 2017-18 FY, and 618.017 billion kyats for the six-month period.
Translated from Burmese by Myint Win Thein.