YANGON — The Ministry of Defense has requested a budget of 3.26 trillion kyats for fiscal 2018-19, which starts in October.
The request is equivalent to 13.07 percent of the annual budget, estimated at nearly 25 trillion kyats.
On Wednesday, representatives of 22 ministries, and those of 11 Union-level departments, offices and other entities under the National League for Democracy-led government, began presenting to the Union Parliament their initial budget requests for October 2018 through September 2019. This will be the first fiscal year since the switch to an Oct. 1-Sept. 30 calendar; the country is currently operating on a provisional six-month budget (March-August 2018).
Budget requests were presented Wednesday by six of the 11 Union-level bodies (the Union Government Office, Attorney General’s Office, Constitutional Court, Auditor General’s Office, Union Election Commission, and parliamentary offices) and 11 ministries (Defense; Home Affairs; Border Affairs; Foreign Affairs; the State Counselor’s Office; Information; Religion and Culture; Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation; Transport and Communications; Natural Resources and Environmental Preservation; and the President’s Office). Government representatives will continue their presentations on Thursday.
Major-General Myint Nwe, the deputy minister of defense, told the Parliament on Wednesday that this year’s defense budget request represents an increase of 57.114 billion kyats from last year’s actual budget of 3.19 trillion kyats.
Explaining the increase, Maj-Gen. Myint New said the requested budget is necessary to implement the Myanmar Military (or Tatmadaw)’s long-term plan to transform itself into a “standard Army, Navy and Air Force.”
He said the budget covers the cost of salaries and support for military personnel, weaponry, building construction, military operations and other expenses. He did not reveal precise figures of military personnel or details of the equipment the Tatmadaw plans to purchase.
The military budget has accounted for approximately 13 to above 14 percent of the national budget since fiscal 2012-13. Sai Thiha Kyaw, a Lower House lawmaker from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy, “I realize the military budget is around 13-14 percent, although the annual overall budget increases every year. However, [the Tatmadaw’s] use of weapons and warfare equipment machinery are of high standard.”
The defense budget accounted for 13.9 percent of the total budget in 2017-18, 14.3 percent in 2016-17, more than 13.6 percent in 2015-16, 12.7 percent in 2014-15, nearly 13.3 percent in 2013-14, just over 14 percent in 2012-13 and more than 14.6 percent in 2011-12, and is projected to account for 13 percent of spending next year (2018-19).
According to the lawmaker, the largest shares of next year’s total budget are requested by the ministries of Finance and Planning (22.9 percent); Electricity and Energy (22.2 percent); Defense (13.07 percent); Education (8.7 percent); Transport and Communications (5.3 percent); and Health and Sport (4.6 percent).
The Ministry of Finance and Planning also tops the list of projected proportional income, accounting for 42.6 percent of the estimated government total, followed by the ministries of Electricity and Energy (25.7 percent) and Transport and Communications (8 percent).
The state budget includes estimated expenditure of 24.954 trillion kyats, against estimated income 20.051 trillion kyats, including foreign loans. This leaves a budget deficit of 4.9 trillion kyats. The coming year’s budget is higher than the April 2017-March 2018 fiscal year budget, which included total expenditure of 20.59 trillion kyats and a budget deficit of 4.38 percent.
The increase is partly due to an increase in foreign debt to over USD10 billion, from around USD9 billion last year, Sai Thiha Kyaw said.
He said the Union budget estimate excludes state and regional budgets estimates. However, the Union will support the total 1.794 trillion-kyat deficits of the state and regional budgets via the Union Fund. State/regional budget expenses amount to an estimated 2.859 trillion kyats, while their incomes amount to 1.065 trillion kyats, he said.
The Union Parliament’s 20 joint assessment teams will assess the budget requests and submit them to the Public Accounts Committee over the next two months. That committee will decide whether to approve the budgets before October, said Sai Thiha Kyaw, who is a member of the committee.