Yangon Parliament, Cabinet Still At Odds Over Draft Budget

By San Yamin Aung 4 June 2018

YANGON — The Yangon Region Parliament failed to pass a draft 2018-19 budget Monday as debate over the proposed purchase of 10 Ford vehicles and a multi-million dollar investment in Yangon City Bank continued.

Over the objections of the Parliament’s Finance, Planning and Economy Committee, both controversial items were included in the revised draft budget submitted to the legislature on Monday.

Yangon Region Minister for Planning and Finance U Myint Thaung insisted the new vehicles were necessary because the three vehicles currently in use were not enough the serve the region’s nine ministers.

He said the current vehicles cost between $757 and $1,328 a year to maintain and that a car broke down recently while ferrying Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein to Twante Township.

U Myint Thaung urged lawmakers to approve the $700,000 purchase both for the safety of the ministers and for the convenience of visiting dignitaries, whom the vehicles would also serve.

Daw Sandar Min, a lawmaker for the National League for Democracy who chairs the Finance, Planning and Economy Committee, said the committee objected to the purchase.

“We want the ministers to have safe rides, too. But none of the ministers currently take buses or taxies. Many ministers also have their own vehicles,” she said.

Daw Sandar Min said lawmakers should not approve the purchase of the vehicles in light of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for financial austerity and the consolidation of some Union ministries to save money.

U Myint Thaung also asked Parliament to approve a 6.8 billion kyats ($5.05 million) investment in Yangon City Bank, which is run by the Yangon City Development Committee, so it could qualify to conduct foreign banking operations.

He said the bank needed to qualify for foreign banking operations in order to participate in a planned project with GIZ, Germany’s foreign aid agency, to provide low-interest loans to small and medium enterprises in Yangon. The money, he added, would come from the bank’s own revenues.

Daw Sandar Min said the investment was unnecessary because there were other government-owned banks that already conduct foreign banking operations.

Because lawmakers refused to approve the draft budget, the Parliament speaker said he would report back to the chief minister, who with his cabinet will decide whether to keep the controversial items in place, take them out, or adjust them.

Lawmaker U Tint Lwin, who chairs the Yangon Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, told The Irrawaddy that he hoped the chief minister would announce his decision in the coming days.

He said that if the cabined continued to insist on buying new vehicles for the ministers, it could at least consider buying fewer of them.

Once the draft budget is passed, it will be sent to the Union Finance Commission, with whose approval in will be turned into a bill.