Myanmar Military Proposes Larger Budget for ‘Stronger’ Armed Forces

By Nan Lwin 22 July 2019

YANGON—The Defense Ministry on Monday requested more than 3.37 trillion kyats (US$2.22 billion) for fiscal year 2019-20, which begins Oct. 1.

The amount is more than 100 billion kyats more than the ministry requested for the previous fiscal year.

Major-General Myint Nwe, deputy minister of defense, told Parliament on Monday that this year’s defense budget request represents an increase of 122.41 billion kyats over last year’s actual budget of 3.24 trillion kyats.

Union-level representatives from 15 ministries (Natural Resources and Environmental Preservation; Labor, Immigration and Population; Industry; Commerce; Education; Health and Sports; Investment and Foreign Economic Relations; Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; Home Affairs; Defense; Transport and Communications; Electricity and Energy; Planning and Finance; Construction; and Ethnic Affairs) and six Union-level bodies (the Auditor General’s Office; the Union Election Commission; the Attorney General’s Office; the Union Civil Service Board; the Naypyitaw Council; and the Central Bank) explained the expenditure details of the fiscal year budget proposal in the Union Parliament.

Maj-Gen. Myint Nwe said the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) is carrying out long-term plans to “build a stronger, qualified, modern, patriotic military” to protect three national causes: non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and the perpetuation of national sovereignty.

He said the requested budget is necessary to implement these plans.

Maj-Gen. Myint Nwe said the Defense Ministry’s capital expenditure is expected to be 1.43 trillion kyats and its normal expenditure is 1.94 trillion kyats. He said the proposed budget covers the cost of salaries, payments to family members of military personnel, transportation, engineers, security costs, weapons, factories, building construction, emergency funds, interest, machinery and other expenses, but he did not offer precise figures for military personnel payments or details regarding specific equipment the Tatmadaw plans to purchase.

Budget proposal requests were presented last week by six of the 11 Union-level bodies (the Union Government Office; the Office of the Union Parliament; the Office of the Upper House; the Office of the Lower House; the Union Attorney General’s Office; and the Constitutional Court) and nine ministries (Foreign Affairs; Border Affairs; the State Counselor’s Office; the President’s Office; Information; Union Government; Religion and Culture; Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation; and Hotels and Tourism).

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Preservation requested 33.86 billion kyats; the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population requested 199.10 billion kyats; the Ministry of Industry requested 436.38 billion kyats; the Ministry of Commerce requested 23.54 billion kyats; the Ministry of Health and Sports requested 1.18 trillion kyats; and the Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Ministry requested 6.48 billion kyats.

The Union Parliament’s 20 joint assessment teams will assess the budget requests and submit them to the Public Accounts Committee in the coming weeks. That committee will decide whether or not to approve the budget requests by October.

The military budget has accounted for between 13 and 15 percent of the national budget each year since fiscal year 2012-13.

In fiscal year 2018-19, the defense budget accounted for more than 13 percent of the total government budget. The year before it was 13.9 percent of the budget. In fiscal year 2016-17 it was 14.3 percent, in 2015-16 it was just over 13.6 percent, in 2014-15 it was 12.7 percent, in 2013-14 it was nearly 13.3 percent, in 2012-13 it was just over 14 percent and in 2011-12 it was over 14.6 percent.

According to a Union budget draft proposal, Union-level departments and bodies are expected to earn 25.31 trillion kyats, with total expenditures expected to be 32.34 trillion kyats, leaving an expected budget deficit of 7.03 trillion kyats.

The proposal prioritized spending in the energy and electricity sector; transportation, including upgrading roads and bridges; education; heath; and social welfare.

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