Defense Ministry Gets Lion’s Share of Supplementary Budget

By Htet Naing Zaw 14 December 2016

NAYPYIDAW — The Union Parliament has approved an increased budget proposed by the Ministry of Defense for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The additional funds were approved to provide rations and pay salaries to Burma Army soldiers, as well as to operate factories and procure items under the military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation, said U Aung Min, vice chairman-2 of the joint public accounts committee.

Nothing was cut from the proposed budget in exchange for the additional expenditures, said U Aung Min, who is also a Lower House lawmaker representing Zalun Township.

The additional budget proposed by all ministries for 2016-17 fiscal year amounted to more than 1.3 trillion kyats (almost US$1 billion), but the Union Parliament cut about 69 billion kyats (US$52 million) before final approval.

The Ministry of Defense was the only ministry that saw no reduction in its proposed budget, while the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Central Bank of Myanmar saw their budgets slashed.

In January, the Union Parliament—then dominated by the outgoing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—approved a $17.5 billion budget for 2016-17 fiscal year.

The Defense Ministry received more than 14 percent of the total budget, and the recent parliamentary approval will mean an additional nearly $75 million for it to spend before the end of March.

Lawmakers have criticized slashing the Home Affairs budget, which is largely responsible for the police force and correctional system.

The Union Parliament approved a budget for renovation and new construction of additional prisons under the home affairs ministry as per the recommendation of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission but did not approve additional projects that could not be completed during the current fiscal year, according to the joint public accounts committee.

“We have to reduce the budget wherever possible. If proposed spending can wait, we ask the ministries to wait until the next fiscal year. We’re only allowing spending that cannot be put off,” U Aung Min told The Irrawaddy.

The home affairs ministry asked for more than $27 million and Parliament cut almost $7 million, while the Central Bank of Myanmar saw $40 million cut from its proposed $98 million budget.

The President’s Office, State Counselor’s Office and Ethnic Affairs Ministry did not request additional funds.

The joint public accounts committee takes a number of factors into consideration such as if the projects to be carried out under the additional budget can be completed within the current fiscal year, if the proposed expenditures are realistic, and if the projects will benefit the people.

As for reviewing the budget proposals, two committees responsible for inspecting construction and procurement review the proposals and then a team led by the vice-president 1 checks the budget for the Union government and another team led by the vice-president 2 checks the budget for divisional governments. A financial commission led by the President does a final check on all budget proposals before submitting them to Parliament.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko