Lawmakers Allotted $5,000 Each for Local Development Projects

By Htet Naing Zaw 21 November 2013

RANGOON — Burma’s Parliament approved a proposal that allots US $5,000 to each lawmaker for development projects in their local constituency, according to MPs, who said that the plan had come from Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann.

The arrangement was approved in a parliamentary meeting in April this year, but news of the plan only surfaced this week.

U Nu, a lawmaker from Rangoon Division and a member of the Assembly’s Joint Public Accounts Committee, said members of Burma’s 440-seat Lower House and 224-seat Upper House would be allotted a total of $33 million, or $5,000 each, for education, health and transport development projects in their respective constituencies.

“All activities will be carried out with direct permission from the Parliament’s Office. We have to submit our activity report to the Parliament as well,” said U Nu, adding that MPs would cooperate with local authorities in implementation of the activities.

Hla Swe, an Upper House member from Magwe Division, said, “We have to carry out development activities in our area that will cost less than five million kyat [$5,000]. If our project will exceed the allotted amount, we will have to submit a new proposal.”

The plan to establish a separate fund for lawmakers to spend on local development in their constituencies was reportedly brought to the Lower House by then-speaker Shwe Mann after he visited India in December 2011.

“This is an Indian model and Thura Shwe Mann brought it back to Burma as it was successful there,” Phone Myint Aung, an Upper House member from Rangoon Division, told The Irrawaddy.

Shwe Mann is currently Union Parliament Speaker and chairman of the ruling Union, Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Phone Myint Aung added that the Joint Public Accounts Committee is responsible for checking local development activities carried out by members of Parliament as well as their expenditures.

Funding for the lawmaker’s development programs was reportedly taken out of the government’s annual budget and approved separately by Parliament.

A senior official from the President’s Office, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed displeasure with the decision to grant lawmakers fund for the implementation of government projects, adding that MPs should focus on legislative—and not executive—tasks.

“The Parliament is mainly responsible for making legislation, thus it should only monitor and give guidance for local development programs,” he said.