Financial Commission Moves to Reapportion Union Budget      

By San Yamin Aung 16 June 2016

RANGOON — The Financial Commission hopes to reapportion the 2016-17 Union Budget, looking to allocate more funds to the education, health and social welfare sectors.

The 21-member commission, which was formed in early April, held its first meeting in Naypyidaw on Wednesday. It is chaired by President Htin Kyaw and includes Vice Presidents Myint Swe and Henry Van Thio as vice chairpersons and State Counselor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi as a member. The commission discussed decreasing government expenditure and amending the budget approved by the previous government, because the number of ministries has been consolidated from 36 to 22.

Zaw Htay, President’s Office spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that Vice President Myint Swe manages the budgets of Union-level ministries and agencies, while Vice President Henry Van Thio oversees the budgets of state and division governments.

Myint Swe was a former Army commander, and regime hardliner, nominated to his current position by the military, exercising its right under the 2008 constitution to select one of Burma’s two vice presidents. As Rangoon’s Chief Minister prior to 2016, he was embroiled in corruption allegations. The now-ruling National League for Democracy nominated Henry Van Thio, an ethnic Chin Christian with a military background.

According to state media, President Htin Kyaw told commission members on Wednesday that, in order to develop human resources in Burma, they will increase spending on education, health and social welfare and that they will focus attention on policies for rural development, electrification, poverty alleviation and infrastructural development.

“The budget should be supervised systematically….and how much of the budget is allocated to what, and why, should be transparent,” President Htin Kyaw was reported as saying.

“We’ve spent the 5-percent tax collected from cellphone users in April [and May] on the education sector,” Zaw Htay said, referring to the commercial tax on cellphone users that had been postponed under President Thein Sein’s administration due to widespread unpopularity.

Vice President Myint Swe said that he has drafted a budget for the ministries that reduces the salaries of ministers, their deputies and related expenses because 10 of the previous ministries have been merged into five and 10 other ministries have been removed, state media reported.

He added that expenditures for the two new ministries formed by the present government since April—the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and the Ministry of the State Counselor’s Office—have also been added to the Union budget.

The Financial Commission must next submit the revised budget to Parliament for approval.