This Week in Parliament (August 15-19)

By The Irrawaddy 20 August 2016

In the Lower House, lawmaker Than Soe, representing Thazi Township of Mandalay Division for the Union Solidarity and Development Party, put forward a proposal for the government to pressure the US to lift its remaining sanctions against Burma. Lawmakers rejected further discussion of the proposal, by 219 votes to 151.

In the Upper House, Htoot May of Arakan State Constituency-11 criticized a lack of transparency in the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Management Committee and asked if the government has a plan to form a new management committee. Deputy Minister for National Planning and Finance Maung Maung Win countered that the work of the committee, including selecting tenders and implementing projects, had been done in line with “international norms.” He said the ministry has also established a website (www.kpsez.org) containing relevant information. The Ministry of Commerce has been tasked with reconstituting SEZ management committees formed by the previous government; work on SEZs will be halted till then.

The government will permit local and foreign investment towards the establishment of private forests within state-owned forest reserves and protected forest areas, according to the Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Ohn Win.

Tuesday August 16

In the Lower House, Khin Cho, representing Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State, enquired about the total debt owed by Burma to foreign countries. The Deputy Minister for National Planning and Finance Maung Maung Win said it amounted to US$9.16 billion as of the end of last fiscal year on March 31.

Lawmakers debated a proposal by Khin Hint Thit of Pandaung Township in Pegu Division that urged the government to take a tough stance on crime, for the country’s “stability.”

In the Upper House, lawmakers debated a draft amendment to the civil service law. The Bill Committee decided to review the law, in accordance with the points raised in the debate.

In the Union Parliament, lawmakers voted to accept a US$100 million loan from the World Bank, to be used as part of the “Myanmar Monetary Sector Development Plan,” under which $75 million would be allotted to the National Planning and Finance Ministry and $25 million to the Central Bank.

The Union Parliament also approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asean-India Center.

Wednesday August 17

In the Lower House, lawmakers continued to debate Khin Hint Thit’s proposal that the government should be tougher on crime. The parliament put the proposal on record.

In the Upper House, in response to questions from lawmakers, Education Minister Myo Thein Gyi said that if not enough graduates were to apply for teaching positions at schools in remote areas, the education ministry would appoint as “temporary teachers,” those aged between 18 and 25 who have passed the basic education middle school level.

Tun Tun of Mandalay Division Constituency-2 asked whether the government is taking steps to curb increased levels of smuggling through border areas since the dismantling of multi-departmental mobile taskforces in December, after they were repeatedly ambushed by smugglers. Commerce Minister Than Myint assured lawmakers that plans—including for new checkpoints along known smuggling routes—were being drawn up with other ministries.

Thursday August 18

In the Lower House, lawmakers continued to debate the proposal from Tin Htwe of Pegu Division’s Waw Township that urged the government to prioritize the modernization of farming methods as a means of reducing poverty. The parliament approved the proposal.

Friday August 19

In the Union Parliament, lawmakers debated the medium-term debt settlement strategy proposed by the President. The deputy minister for planning and finance responded to discussions and the parliament approved the strategy. Lawmakers also discussed amendments to the Union budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, and amendments to the government’s expenses law.