The Irrawaddy

Public Needs Left Out of Draft Budget, Yangon Finance Minister Admits 

YANGON — Yangon Minister for Planning and Finance U Myint Thaung admitted on Monday that the regional government had neglected to fully fund items identified as basic public needs while drafting its proposed budget for fiscal 2018-19.

The minister made the comment while submitting the regional government’s revised budget proposals.

The revised budget was rejected by the regional Parliament’s Finance, Planning and Economic Committee on Monday due to members’ objections to two controversial spending plans; one to purchase a fleet of Ford vehicles for regional ministers’ use, and the other to invest in a regional bank.

U Myint Thaung said that while drafting budget proposals for fiscal 2018-19, the regional government had intended to adopt a “participatory budgeting” process that involved elected representatives and regional committee members directly in decision-making. To that end, government officials held two meetings in April with lawmakers and committee members in order to ensure that the draft budget incorporated needs-based assessments from the city’s respective townships, the minister added.

“When we matched funds allocated for governmental departments’ needs and township development plans presented by the lawmakers, I admit that the prioritized projects designed to meet public needs were left out,” he told the lawmakers.

He vowed not to repeat the same mistake next year and assured them that lessons had been learned from this year’s process.

During debates last week, regional lawmakers expressed vigorous opposition to the Yangon regional government’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The MPs raised concerns about billions of kyats earmarked for “unacceptable and unnecessary” programs and demanded that priority be given to the needs of the general public.

Under the revised draft submitted on Monday, some items had been removed or changed to accommodate some of the MPs’ township development proposals. Some government departments’ proposed spending plans had also been trimmed.

For example, a 5.1-billion-kyat (USD3.8 million) plan to build staff housing for the Engineering Department in Insein was changed and now calls for three city halls to be built in Insein, Shwe Pyi Tha and Hlaing Thar Yar townships, he said. Similarly, the General Administration Department (GAD)’s request for funds to buy 21 double-cab cars was reduced to 14 cars, the minister said.

However, U Myint Thaung insisted that the purchase of 10 Ford vehicles for officials’ use and another plan to invest billions of kyats in Yangon City Bank would go ahead.

The minister said the purchase of the Ford sedans is needed to ensure the safe transportation of regional ministers and their important guests, including state and international leaders invited to attend Yangon government functions.

The regional government currently has just three vehicles for ministers’ use, he said.