Rangoon MPs Clash Over Budget

By San Yamin Aung 23 June 2016

RANGOON — Lawmakers have complained that the Rangoon divisional government has unfairly allotted a budget windfall due to the cancellation of flyover projects, highlighting the fact that the divisional chief minister’s constituency received more money than any other township.

The budget for the construction of two flyovers at the junction of Kabar Aye Pagoda Road and Parami Street in North Okkalapa Township was approved under the previous government, but the plan was scrapped in April as the newly-elected members of parliament suggested spending the 32.2 billion kyats (US$26.1 million) on rural development projects since new flyovers have not been a solution to Rangoon’s traffic problems.

“Lawmakers have disagreed with the regional government’s budget because some of their plans have not been approved. Many rural areas are receiving less money and Hlegu [Township] is getting more money than the other townships,” said Kyaw Zay Ya, a Rangoon Divisional lawmaker who is on the Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs Committee.

Hlegu Township, the home constituency of Rangoon’s Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, has been allocated around 4 billion kyats, the most of any constituency. Kawhmu and Kungyangon townships are set to receive more than 3 billion kyats, while all other townships have been budgeted around 2 billion kyats.

“Three townships will get more than 3 billion kyats while all the others get only around 2 billion kyats,” said San Kyaw, a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) member of the divisional parliament. “Now that the lawmakers have lodged complaints, they are negotiating with the government.”

“It is unfair that the chief minister’s constituency is getting the most money. All lawmakers want to do good for their constituencies because that is why we were elected,” the USDP lawmaker said.

National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker Aung San Oo of Hmawbi Township said his township will get 2.5 billion kyats for development projects.

“We suggested using money from the flyover budget for rural development projects. But because the budget gives more money to urban townships than rural ones, we asked for it to be reviewed,” he said.

“They said in Hlegu Township road construction would require more than 1 billion kyats, so the township was allotted more money. We all accepted that because the project is really needed. But the unequal budget allocation was inappropriate in some other respects,” Aung San Oo said.

Planning and Finance Minister Myint Thaung told The Irrawaddy the budget is now being reviewed because some proposals which should have been prioritized were not included in the initial plan.

“It is true that Hlegu Township was allocated 1.3 billion kyats more than any other township, but it is for the maintenance of a road which is now in really bad shape,” he said, adding the initial budget will not be changed under this current review, but they would tap into the government’s reserves to pay for projects that are deemed necessary.

“Each township made a proposal based on their own needs, which are dependent on size, population and other factors. So it is hard to compare them. We allocated the budget to address each township’s unique concerns,” the minister said.

The budget will be used for road construction and maintenance, increasing access to running water, building bridges and improving the sewer system in the urban areas.