Info Minister, Union Parliament Speaker Defend ‘Pension’ Plan

By San Yamin Aung & Nyein Nyein 21 December 2015

RANGOON — Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut said the government would distribute “pensions” to outgoing lawmakers and other government administrators in line with existing laws, despite criticism of the scheme in recent days.

“We will do [this] according to the law. There is a law and if the law is not amended, our finance ministry will arrange to provide the gratuity,” the presidential spokesperson and information minister told The Irrawaddy.

Under separate laws relating to the “Emoluments, Allowances and Insignia” of lawmakers and various members of the executive and government bodies, eligible persons are afforded a one-time “political pension” based in part on their monthly salary.

Differing views emerged last week after parliamentarians were given the necessary forms to execute the gratuity, which for outgoing Union-level MPs amounts to 5 million kyats (US$3,845) and 2.5 million kyats for outgoing state and division lawmakers. MPs elected in a 2012 by-election would only be entitled to the latter sum.

Some critics said the payment was unreasonable, given civil servants needed to work 25-30 years, or up to the retirement age of 60, to receive pensions.

“Why should [lawmakers] enjoy a political pension? What have they done [for the country]? With whose money? They should not be given pensions while the country is in poverty,” Robert San Aung, a prominent lawyer, told The Irrawaddy last week.

Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann emphasized in the chamber on Monday that the one-time “gratuity” would be provided not only to MPs but also to members of administration bodies across the country as well as the president and vice-presidents.

“I heard a variety of criticism from the public and lawmakers about pensions in the media,” Shwe Mann told lawmakers. “I explain here that it is not only for MPs. All those who took office in the past five years will get the gratuity for their service.”

The Speaker explained that the president and vice-presidents would receive a one-time gratuity and also monthly benefits according to Article 26 (a) of the “The Law Relating to the Emoluments, Allowances and Insignia of the Union Level Persons.” The law was passed under the previous regime, the State Peace and Development Council, in 2011 and amended last year.

Shwe Mann said that the relevant government departments were working to calculate pension amounts based on the information lawmakers had provided since last week.