For the first time under the current government, the Union Parliament has declined to approve in full an additional budget request by the military, cutting 10.6 billion kyats (US$7.57 million) from the 197.688 billion kyats requested by the Defense Ministry for the remaining months of fiscal 2019-20.
It is the first military budget request to be slashed since the National League for Democracy government came to power in 2016, according to lawmakers.
The government’s initial budget estimate for FY2019-20, which began in October and ends in September, was 35.243 trillion kyats, with the military budget accounting for 3.385 trillion kyats. In comparison, the Health Ministry’s budget was 1.172 trillion kyats and the Education Ministry’s budget was 2.685 trillion kyats.
The cabinet last week submitted additional budget requests totaling 2.66 trillion kyats for the remainder of this fiscal year.
Parliament, which resumed on May 18 for the sole purpose of debating the supplementary budget allocations, approved the revised budget, cut by 87.183 billion kyats, on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sein Win told Parliament on Wednesday the additional funds would be used to cover the daily travel costs of soldiers currently engaged in special military operations, as well as the cost of transporting materiel, building maintenance and consultant fees.
Of the military’s request, 21.995 billion kyats was to cover per diems for soldiers traveling while undertaking military operations, and 1.296 billion kyats was to pay for materiel transportation, rental fees for the transport of rations, petrol, aviation fuel and operational support materiel.
The defense minister added that military choppers are used not only to transport soldiers and for other military uses, but also to transport civil servants, currency and high school students’ exam papers, as well as for other uses in Chin State’s Paletwa, where the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) is fighting the Arakan Army.
“The Tatmadaw is not wasting the state’s budget,” he added, urging lawmakers not to cut the additional budget request as had earlier been urged by some MPs.
On May 22, lawmaker Daw May Win Myint from Yangon’s Mayangone constituency, who oversaw scrutiny of the budget, proposed cutting 22.7 billion kyats from the supplementary request, citing a decrease in the cost of petrol due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and noting that some expenses were higher than those included in the original budget estimate.
Daw May Win Myint and Parliament’s Joint Public Accounts Committee then held negotiations with officials from the Office of the Quartermaster-General, and on Monday they agreed to reduce her proposed cut by more than half, according to U Aung Min, the vice chairman of the committee.
The military budget has accounted for between 13 and 15 percent of the national budget each year since FY2012-13.
The military requested a budget of 3.2 trillion kyats in FY2018-19 and 2.9 trillion kyats in FY2017-18.
While the military’s overall budget increased this fiscal year, it decreased as a percentage of the total budget, accounting for 11 percent.
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