Parliament Amends Union Budget Law

By Tin Htet Paing 24 August 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s Union Parliament passed a bill on Tuesday amending the 2016 Union Budget Law—drafted by the previous government and approved by the former legislature, trimming the estimated expenditures of the majority of the ministries.

The cut of 470 billion kyats (around US$389.8 million) from the previously approved amount of over 20 trillion kyats, however, did not affect six ministries— Defense, the State Counselor’s Office, Foreign Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, Education, as well as Health and Sports.

The 21-member financial commission—formed in April and led by the country’s President, two vice presidents and other Union-level officials—drafted and submitted the bill to the current Parliament, citing the need to amend the Union budget as the number of ministries has since been consolidated from 36 to 22.

During the commission’s first meeting in June, President U Htin Kyaw—the commission’s chair—stressed the need to allocate more funds toward the country’s infrastructure, as well as Burma’s education, healthcare and social welfare sectors.

The bill was reviewed by two legislative committees: the Union Parliament’s joint bill committee and the joint public accounts committee.

Aung Min, the vice-chair of the joint bill committee, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that changes in the cabinet structure and the merging of the ministries after the power transfer to a civilian-led government have contributed to the push to amend and review the Union budget. Getting parliamentary approval for budget allocation is an annual procedure.

“The previously approved budget was drafted in the context of last year,” Aung Min said.

“Our committee noticed some government projects that would not be implemented during this budget year,” he explained. “We have recommended that the Parliament cut estimated expenses on these projects.”

“It doesn’t mean that these projects cannot ever be implemented. Ministries could put them in their proposed budget plans for next year,” Aung Min added.

Aung Min also said that the budget of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s foreign affairs ministry was left unchanged, as there were no special project proposals by the ministry.

The ministries of Defense and of Electricity and Energy will receive some of the largest shares of the Union budget this year, with 14 and 24 percent of total funds, respectively.

The vice-chair said that full details of each ministry’s share of the Union budget will soon be disclosed by state-owned newspapers.