The Irrawaddy

MPs Criticize YCDC’s Proposed Budget

Rangoon regional lawmaker Daw Sandar Min is pictured outside of parliament in March 2017. (Photo: Moe Myint / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON – Divisional lawmakers asked Rangoon cabinet members to review several budget proposals from the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) and co-operative department, calling the financial requests “unreasonable.”

The budget proposals were submitted as part of the 2017-18 Regional Budget Bill, and were debated on Tuesday’s parliamentary session. Regional planning and finance minister U Myint Thaung originally submitted the bill in March. The Rangoon parliament’s finance, planning and economic committee analyzed the bill before bringing it before lawmakers for approval.

Eleven parliamentarians discussed the bill. Lawmaker U Yan Aung of Mingalar Taungnyunt Constituency (2) highlighted the 2017 report from the co-operative department as well as the budget invocation for the upcoming fiscal year. The total income of the co-operative department in 2016-17 was listed as 10.424 million kyats but the total expenditure was more than 1.8 billion.

Moreover, the co-operative department expected a similar income of 10.4 million kyats for 2017-18, while the entire department’s payout is estimated to be 1.66 billion.

“I was surprised by the gap between the total income and the expenditure…that’s unacceptable and a huge error. The whole year’s income does not even recover the travel expenses of the department,” U Yan Aung said.

He suggested that the National League for Democracy (NLD) government investigate the issue very carefully in order to protect its reputation, adding that he believed they would take care of the concerns he voiced.

Also raised as budgetary concerns were costs associated with the Rangoon regional government’s attempts since 2015to upgrade office work to an e-government system, and that they had spent 1 billion kyats on the initiative during that fiscal year, as well as another 1 billion during the 2016-17 year, and had requested the same amount for the upcoming year.

“Experts would laugh at this report,” said U Yan Aung. He explained that the purchase of new computers and maintenance cost 550 million kyats in 2016-2017 and also 380 million in previous years—joking that Rangoon could face a shortage in computer stocks if the government continued to spend such a sum on technology.

“When such huge amount of money is spent every year, inspections are required to determine whether this money is spent properly,” the parliamentarian said.

Seikkyi Kanaungto Township representative Daw Sandar Min also asked that parts of the YCDC budget proposal be reconsidered, particularly a request for 550 million kyats for Mya Kan Thar and Ngwe Thawdar golf resorts’ maintenance and beautification costs. An annual report indicated that the two golf courses brought in just 6 million kyats in years past.

The Rangoon parliament’s finance, planning and economic committee estimated that the two golf resorts could earn 200 million kyats per year from membership fees—500,000 kyats for government officials and 4 million kyats for those from the private sector—and rental fees for golf carts, which range from 20,000-40,000 kyats per day.

“The preservation cost is sufficient from the total income of the two golf resorts. So, I would like to recommend that we cut off the budget of the two golf resorts,” said MP Daw Sandar Min.

U Myint Thaung said that there had been a misunderstanding regarding the budget, and that the 550 million was intended for the entire playgrounds, parks and garden maintenance department, not only the golf courses. The minister of planning and finance also pointed to different figures: a gross total income of 2.8 billion kyats in Rangoon in 2016-17, and an expected income of 2.264 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Total expenditure of 2016-17 was more than 2.15 million and in 2017-18, the government estimated it would spend nearly 1.9 billion kyats, he said, leaving a surplus.

Dagon Constituency (2) parliamentarian U Kyaw Zeya criticized the YCDC for leasing the People’s Park—more than 76 acres of land—to the private company Natural World for 32.3 million kyats per year.

The government is planning to bring in 240 million kyats from the project in coming years. Yet U Kyaw Zeya claimed that the Natural World Company could also make large profits from the park’s swimming pool, entrance charge, amusement centers, and leases from shops on-site.

The MP also pointed out that rents might be too low for restaurants with government leases in My Garden and Hostel Park in Dagon Township.

“The rental fees are extremely cheap. I would like to urge the government to increase the lease rate,” U Kyaw Zeya said.

He suggested a review of the YCDC proposal to buy 15 new cars and to spend 42 million kyats on a luxury automobile with which to transport foreign visitors, stating that the YCDC should provide hospitality with the department’s standard vehicles.

“YCDC staff should encourage use of the Yangon Bus Services, which the public uses in their daily lives,” U Kyaw Zeya said.

He added that while it was understood that the elected government had to originally work within the parameters of the previous Union Solidarity and Development Party budget, he had expected that the now one-year-old NLD administration would present something more varied from past budgets than what was put forward with the 2017-18 regional budget bill.