Yangon Lawmakers Reject 3 Regional Govt Proposals Worth $10 Million

By The Irrawaddy 12 June 2019

YANGON—Yangon lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the regional government’s request for 16 billion kyats (US$10.45 million) to construct a new police headquarters and regional court, and to buy a ship to shuttle between an Andaman Sea island and Yangon.

A majority of the 20 parliamentarians who discussed the draft Yangon region budget for fiscal 2019-20 on Wednesday opposed the request, reasoning that the regional government should focus on basic infrastructure like roads and drainage systems, of which the city is in urgent need.

For the fiscal year, the Yangon government has requested a budget of more than 772 billion kyats (US$504.24 million), it was disclosed at an emergency meeting of the Yangon parliament on Tuesday.

During discussions at the regional parliament on Wednesday, the Yangon government asked for 5 billion kyats (US$3.26 million) for the construction of a seven-story police headquarters with a helipad on top for the Yangon Police Force. The building’s proposed location is in the compound of the parliament, a fact that attracted ire from most of the lawmakers, who said a parliamentary compound should not be obstructed by any other buildings.

“A parliamentary premises should be for parliament-related buildings, not for a police headquarters,” said U Nay Phone Latt, a lawmaker from the National League for Democracy, during the discussion. He continued that if the headquarters is really needed, it should be built on a plot owned by the Ministry of Home Affairs, referring to the military-controlled ministry that supervises the Myanmar Police Force.

Also rejected was the proposed construction of the Yangon Regional Court near Insein Prison. The Yangon government had asked for 6 billion kyats (US$3.91 million) for the new courthouse with two basements from the proposed fiscal 2019-20 budget.

“Every township and district in Yangon has already got their respective courthouses. Do we really need a new one?” asked another NLD lawmaker, U Han Soe.

Most of the lawmakers who joined the discussion said that if those buildings are really necessary, they should be paid for under the Union government’s budget, not with the Yangon budget.

The final item that failed to impress Yangon lawmakers was the government’s slated spending of 5 billion kyats to buy a passenger ferry to shuttle between Yangon and Coco Island (part of Yangon Region) in the Andaman Sea.

According to lawmaker U Yan Shin, the Yangon government had asked local company DBsea Enterprise Services Co. Ltd. to build the 25-meter-long ferry in Singapore. Upon completion, the company would operate only two round-trips per month. Quoting the company’s recent presentation to Yangon parliamentarians, the lawmaker explained to the parliament on Wednesday that the trips take only around seven days, and for the rest of the month the company would operate the ferry commercially and share a portion of the profit with the Yangon government.

“It’s as if the government is giving the company a business to run,” he said.

U Nay Phone Latt said the plan to buy a new ferry for Coco Island is not realistic because the island still doesn’t have a proper jetty at which to dock a ship, so the purchase plan should be postponed.

“What the government should do is to draft a development plan for the island, with the ferry purchase being part of the plan,” he said.

The lawmakers urged the government on Wednesday to divert the money slated for spending on the projects to regional development works like building roads and upgrading drainage systems. They said it’s unfair that the government is spending a lot on the projects while cutting budgets for regional development projects in their constituencies, citing examples such a proposed new road whose length had been halved.

“Instead of building what people really need, the government is spending a lot on others,” U Yan Shin told the parliament.

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