Speaker Shwe Mann Says President is Underpaid

By The Irrawaddy 2 January 2015

Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann recommended that the presidential salary be raised during a meeting with civil society leaders in Rangoon on Tuesday.

The Speaker, who is also chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and expected to be a contender for the next presidency, said the current 5 million kyat (US$4,800) salary is not enough pay for the responsibilities of the post.

“Five million kyats is small,” said Shwe Mann, contrasting the stipend with salaries offered to foreign experts entering the country on temporary consultancy contracts. “We have to pay at least $25,000 to hire a foreigner who understands banking and financial systems. That’s equivalent to about 25 million kyats. Just compare his responsibility and accountability to that of the president.”

Lawyer and activist Robert San Aung warned that raising the salary—especially shortly before an election scheduled or late 2015—could lead voters to distrust Burma’s leadership. While the presidential salary has been set at 5 million kyats, Thein Sein only received 1.5 million until April, 2014, because of a government budget shortfall.

“Five million kyats is more than enough. People will disrespect the administration if they keep doing this again and again,” Said Robert San Aung. “In fact, 5 million kyats is too much. He should take less. A township judge can hardly make ends meet with his monthly salary of 200,000 kyats. Is this fair or not? You just think about it.”

Upper House lawmaker Phone Myint Aung countered that 5 million kyats is low in the context of other leaders, and that other Burmese officials are receiving stipends that dwarf the president’s income.

“For a head of state, 5 million kyats is very small. Even retired Snr-Gen Than Shwe receives 10 million kyats as his monthly pension,” he said. Phone Myint Aung added, however, that the expenditures of the president’s office are vast and unaudited.

At present, Burma’s vice president is paid 4 million kyats per month, while the Speaker and ministry heads receive 3.5 and 3 million kyats, respectively.