Yangon Mayor Defends 80-Car Budget Binge

By San Yamin Aung 8 October 2019

YANGON – Yangon’s mayor, U Maung Maung Soe, has defended a plan to buy 80 vehicles for municipal committee bosses, saying the new cars will be essential for official duties.

He defended the 2 billion kyats (US$1.37 million) allocated from the city’s 2019-20 budget by saying the vehicles would help deal with numerous issues, including road damage and bridge collapses and all work-related travel.

“We are not asking for luxury,” the mayor told the media.

Outspoken regional lawmaker Daw Sandar Min, who chairs the parliament’s Finance, Planning and Economic Committee, criticized the city’s municipal body, the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), for spending cash on cars rather than on improving people’s lives.

“I am surprised to see the purchasing of new cars not only for township committee heads but also for the members,” she wrote, adding that the cost of petrol and drivers would increase the budget.

Other parliamentarians have expressed similar concerns about the YCDC’s priorities.

Yangon, which was once seen as one of the most beautiful large cities in Southeast Asia, is struggling with numerous problems after long-delayed urban planning and regulation enforcement.

The YCDC is planning to buy vehicles for each of the heads of the 33 township committees, all of whom were elected in the March municipal polls. It also wants two cars for two unnamed members and six for six newly elected executive committee members. It wants to buy 13 vehicles for secretaries of the seven task forces under the YCDC, 15 for its directors and others to transport guests or for the YCDC staff on special occasions.

“If they had an objection, it should have been raised when the parliament discussed it,” U Maung Maung Soe told the media.

The parliament approved the departmental expenditure in the public budget last week.

Regional parliamentarian U Kyaw Zay Ya opposed the plan during the parliamentary discussions.

But he said the Public Accounts Committee, which suggests budget cuts, did not object to the purchases, so there were no follow-up objections and the parliament passed it.

In June 2018, the regional government also requested a budget to purchase 10 Ford vehicles for 1 billion kyats for ministerial use.

Regional parliamentarians complained, saying the Yangon authorities should be focused on improving residents’ lives.

The request was forwarded to the Union Parliament for a final decision but it was rejected in September last year.

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