NLD Draws First Budget, Defense Ministry Asks for Nearly 14 Percent Share

By Htet Naing Zaw 1 February 2017

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government has set a budget of nearly 21 trillion kyats for the 2017-18 fiscal year, of which the Defense Ministry asked for nearly 14 percent, or around 2.9 trillion kyats, at the Union Parliament on Tuesday.

According to Deputy Minister for Defense Maj-Gen Myint Nwe, the ministry’s estimated revenue for the 2017-18 fiscal year is 73.11 billion kyats and its estimated expenditure is 2.9 trillion kyats.

“The ministry has asked for 86.533 billion kyats less than 2016-17 fiscal year. And you may find that that amount is less than the previous two years,” Maj-Gen Myint Nwe told the Union Parliament.

The defense budget accounted for more than 14.6 percent of the total budget in the 2011-12 fiscal year, just over 14 percent in 2012-13, nearly 13.3 percent in 2013-14, 12.7 percent in 2014-15, more than 13.6 percent in 2015-16, 14.3 percent in 2016-17, and a projected 13.95 percent for 2017-18, according to the Defense Ministry.

Dr. Hla Moe, who represents Mandalay’s Aungmyaythazan Township in the Lower House, told The Irrawaddy that the Ministry of Planning and Finance had asked for the largest share of the budget—23 percent—and the Ministry of Electric Power and Energy asked for the second largest share at 21 percent, with the Defense Ministry following in third.

The Parliament under the NLD government has not cut the proposed defense budget, he added. The Defense Ministry was the only ministry that saw no reduction in its proposed supplementary budget when ministries proposed additional budgetary top-ups for the 2016-17 fiscal year in December.

Dr. Hla Moe, who is from NLD, said: “I can accept a 13 percent defense budget, since the education budget has reached eight percent and the health budget is five percent. It is not that only the amount of the defense budget is high and the rest are low. But other budgets have also increased gradually.”

The deputy minister said the budget would be mainly used for transforming the Burma military into standard, modernized, well-equipped armed forces.

“We have drawn up long-term plans based on our goals to implement the people’s militia strategy for nation-building and defense,” said Maj-Gen Myint Nwe.

U Khin Cho, a Lower House lawmaker representing Karen State’s Hlaingbwe Township as well as a member of the public accounts committee, criticized how previous governments focused on development in planning the budget, and addressed the problem of inflation by printing more bank notes.

“The expenditures were high, but the revenues were low. [Previous governments] solved this by printing bank notes and taking out foreign loans. But this budget is designed to minimize the deficit,” said U Khin Cho.

The 2017-18 budget is the first that has been drawn up by the NLD-government, as the 2016-17 budget was created by the previous U Thein Sein government.

The Union Parliament has formed 16 teams of lawmakers assigned to review the budget proposal by the respective ministries.

According to the Union Budget draft law, the revenue is estimated to be 16.786 trillion kyats, and the deficit is 4.128 trillion kyats.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko