The Irrawaddy

This Week in Parliament (Jan. 29-Feb. 2)

NAYPYITAW — Lower House Speaker U Win Myint rebuked the Construction Ministry for what he said was its poor oversight of construction companies that win tenders for state-funded road projects, claiming that “public funds are being wasted” as a result.

In the Upper House, U Kyaw Ni Naing of Shan State Constituency (11) asked the government whether it planned to designate a Kokang National Day for ethnic Kokang people in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone. Union Ethnic Affairs Minister Nai Thet Lwin replied that ethnic Kokang people in Myanmar and elsewhere can agree to designate such a day themselves, adding that this doesn’t require designation by the government.

U Ye Htut of Sagaing Constituency (5) proposed that the Information Ministry grant tax-exempt status for the book publishing industry’s supply chain, ranging from printing and publishing to importing and distribution of books and publications. Deputy Information Minister U Aung Hla Tun said he agreed with the idea of reducing taxes on book publishing, but added that his ministry had no authority over taxation issues. He urged lawmakers to participate when the Parliament debates tax law this year.

Tuesday (Jan. 30)

The Lower House recorded a proposal from Oktwin Township lawmaker Daw Cho Cho urging the government to do more to attract foreign investment and spur development of labor-intensive industries in Myanmar.

Wednesday (Jan. 31)

The Union Parliament discussed the government’s annual debt report for fiscal 2016-17. Lower House lawmaker Daw Thet Thet Khaing of Dagon Township asked the Central Bank of Myanmar to reduce its interest rate on deposits from 8 percent to 7 percent and the rate on credit from 13 percent to 11 percent. The lawmaker argued that the current rates had caused the interest rate on government bonds to rise from 9 percent to 9.2 percent, which had in turn increased the government’s debt burden.

The vice governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar agreed that reducing interest rates would be friendly to businessmen, but around 80 percent of savers at private banks are grassroots and middle-class families and pensioners, who do not own businesses.

However, the lawmaker urged the government to consider whether it is better to cater to the large pool of savers who do not engage in business activity, or encourage more people to invest their savings in enterprises.

Thursday (Feb. 1)

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the national legislature on the second anniversary of its election, urging the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to work together with a sense of comradeship.

The Upper House expressed condolences on the passing of Daw Sheila Nang Tawng, 64, chairperson of the Upper House Ethnic Affairs Committee and National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker from Kachin State Constituency (2), who died on Jan. 31. Lawmakers also agreed to contribute from their daily allowances to assist families when a lawmaker dies.

In the Lower House, lawmaker U Min Thein of Taungdwingyi Township asked whether the Health Ministry would recruit more psychiatrists to district-level government hospitals. Health Minister Dr. Myint Htwe replied that his ministry is taking steps to fill the shortages, but added that the number of people suffering from psychiatric disorders remained high in Myanmar.

Friday (Feb. 2)

In the Upper House, U Aung Kyi Nyunt of Magwe Region (4) asked what actions the government planned to take against selling foods prohibited by and not registered with the Food and Drug Administration. Health Minister Dr. Myint Htwe replied that his ministry would make the issue its top priority in 2018.