Yangon Govt Drops $10 Million Spending Proposals

By San Yamin Aung 18 June 2019

YANGON—The Yangon regional government has withdrawn its planned spending of 16 billion kyats (US$10.45 million) for construction projects and the purchase of a ferry for an Andaman Sea island after a heated debate between lawmakers and the Yangon government.

Yangon Region Planning and Finance Minister U Myint Thaung on Tuesday asked the parliament to approve the regional government’s removal of proposals for the construction of a new police headquarters and courthouse, and the purchase of a ship to shuttle between Yangon and Coco Island in the Andaman Sea from its 2019-2020 proposed budget.

The move came right after the Finance Commission led by President U Win Myint held a meeting with state and regional chief ministers to discuss proposed budgets for the coming fiscal year in Naypyitaw on Monday.

During the meeting, the president encouraged regional chief ministers to increase expenditures on regional development including road construction and electrification for the immediate benefit of the people, as well as to expand governments’ funding of education, health and social welfare programs.

On the following day at the Yangon Parliament, Minister U Myint Thaung told lawmakers that the previously proposed 16 billion kyats will be used for regional development work instead of building a police headquarters, regional courthouse and buying a ferry. He said it would be used for rural electrification and road construction instead. But he didn’t give any reason for the sudden withdrawal.

But Yangon lawmakers viewed the president’s encouragement of regional development as an intervention leading to the city government’s sudden withdrawal of the proposed 16 billion kyats worth of projects, which were previously seen as must-haves.

U Tint Lwin, a Yangon lawmaker and the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the Union government had intervened.

“I believe it is because the Union government negotiated [the dispute],” he said.

In earlier discussions at the parliament, the Yangon regional government defended its proposed spending of 5 billion kyats ($3.26 million) to construct a seven-story police headquarters with a helipad; and 6 billion kyats ($3.91 million) for the new regional court with two basements near Insein Prison to strengthen law enforcement. He insisted that spending 5 billion kyats on a 25m-long passenger ferry would benefit the people living on Coco Island in the Andaman Sea.

But lawmakers were not convinced. They urged the government to focus more on basic infrastructure like roads and drainage systems, of which the city is in urgent need, as they debated the proposed budget last week. They also pointed out that even if the buildings and ship are really necessary, they should be paid for with the Union government’s budget, not with the Yangon budget.

The discussion was widely covered in local media last week.

Regional lawmaker U Kyaw Zay Ya, who is also a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said the Union government didn’t approve the spending of 16 billion kyats after learning of the parliamentary dispute.

On Tuesday when U Myint Thaung requested parliamentary approval for the withdrawal, all lawmakers approved it without a single objection.

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