Parliament at Odds with President Over Pay

By Yen Saning 21 January 2015

RANGOON — A parliamentary drafting committee on Tuesday rejected President Thein Sein’s revisions on a plan to raise government salaries, according to lawmakers.

A draft proposal to increase Union parliamentarians’ salaries from 300,000 kyats (US$300) per month to 1 million kyats per month was approved by both house houses of the legislature in late 2014.

The President recommended on Monday, the first day of Burma’s 12th session of Parliament, that the increase be implemented gradually instead of granting an immediate pay-raise.

A bi-cameral committee established to legislate the changes unanimously rejected the President’s suggestions on Tuesday, calling for an immediate $700 increase when the plan takes effect at the start of the new fiscal year in April 2015.

Committee members remarked that Union lawmakers should earn $1,000 and their divisional counterparts should earn $500 per month as the initial proposal indicated.

Union lawmakers currently draw a $300 monthly salary with an expense allowance of $10 per day during sessions, which some members of Parliament said was “not enough.”

Lower House member Khaing Maung Ye said that the expenses of commuting to Naypyidaw, staying in hotels, traveling by taxi and purchasing meals outweigh the stipend.

Moreover, he said, a government-run meal plan is not economical and “most [lawmakers] bring a lunch box.”

Khaing Maung Ye added that lawmakers currently earn far less than cabinet members, recommending that, “our salary should not be less than that of a deputy minister.”

Deputy ministers earn about $2,000 per month, while ministers are paid $3,000. Director general salaries are on par with lawmakers at $200 to $300 per month. Military seat-holders are paid according to their rank.

In his statement to parliament on Monday, the President said that while he agreed in principle to the salary increase, decisions about lawmaker salaries should be made not by lawmakers themselves but by government administrators after calculating the annual budget.