Lawmakers Question 1.2bn Kyat Losses by State-Run Newspapers

By San Yamin Aung 5 September 2018

YANGON—A Myanmar parliamentarian questioned losses of 1.2 billion kyats ($770,000) made by state-run newspapers which are dominating the market in circulation as well as gaining plenty of advertisements.

During debates on the 2018-19 Union Budget Bill on Tuesday, a Lower House lawmaker Daw Aye Mya Mya Myo of Yangon’s Kyauktan constituency pointed out the estimated losses expected to be made by the News and Periodicals Enterprise (NPE) under the Information Ministry in the upcoming fiscal year [from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019].

The Union Budget Bill—submitted to the parliament in July— stated that the News and Periodicals Enterprise under the Information Ministry will lose 1.158 billion kyats with estimated of 21.537 billion kyats and the estimated income of 20.375 billion kyats.

The NPE runs three state-owned daily newspapers: The Mirror and Myanma Alinn Daily in Burmese language and the English-language Global New Light of Myanmar which is running as a joint venture with a private company.

“The enterprise is using state buildings and land for the operations and money from the state budget to pay staff. It also dominates in the market. There are plenty of advertisements but why is it making a loss?” the lawmaker Daw Aye Mya Mya Myo asked at the Union Parliament on Tuesday.

She said government newspapers making losses on state funding needs to be questioned as well as the management of the outlets.

The MP said that the newspapers also failed in countering international reports on Rakhine State during a time when the country has been under strong international censure.

Private daily newspapers have only been published in Myanmar since 2013 after a decades-long ban was lifted. The then-government approved 39 publications, but only seven nationally distributed privately-run papers are left.

Many of those in the market are also struggling to make their publications survive due to a drop in circulation, shrinking ad revenue and high production costs. An uneven playing field has been created in competing against government newspapers which have more advertisements than private media because state media enjoys a bigger circulation, low sale prices and advertisement rates.

The Upper House lawmaker U Ye Htut of Sagaing Region, also mention at the parliament on Tuesday that the state-owned newspapers should be privatized as a way to reduce the state budget deficit.

“There is no state-run newspapers or media in democratic countries and thus they should all be privatized.”