This Week in Parliament (Feb. 13 - Feb. 17)

By The Irrawaddy 18 February 2017

Monday (Feb. 13)

In Union Parliament, the Bill Committee introduced changes to the taxation draft law, suggesting imposing up to 80 percent tax on cigars and tobacco, and reducing commercial tax on the sale of jewelry items from three percent to one percent, and exempting tax on electronics.

The Union Parliament approved President U Htin Kyaw’s proposal to spend 3.6 billion kyats from the government’s reserve funds for implementation of 18 road and bridge construction projects in Arakan State. It also approved the President’s proposal to obtain ¥10.787 billion from the Japan International Cooperation Agency for a major overhaul of two hydropower plants.

Tuesday (Feb. 14)

In the Lower House, U Khin Aung Win of Myaing Township questioned the Ministry of Resources and Environmental Conservation’s tax profits on the controversial China-backed Letpadaung copper mining project. Minister U Ohn Win replied that, as of Jan. 2017, the government had obtained US$20 million from royalties, production sharing, commercial taxes, and income taxes since the start of industrial production on the mining project.

In the Upper House, U Tun Tun Oo of Mandalay Constituency (2) complained about serious traffic problems on the Mandalay-Muse motorway, the major route for Burma-China border trade, and asked if the government had a plan to construct a new route. Union minister for construction U Win Khaing said that his ministry had been conducting a survey to find a new route, and would build a four-lane highway in partnership with potential investors.

The parliamentary commission on the assessment of legal affairs and special issues held a discussion on drafting a law on the right to information.

Wednesday (Feb. 15)

In the Lower House, Union minister for hotels and tourism U Ohn Maung, in response to a question by lawmaker U Bo Bo Oo of Rangoon’s Sanchaung Township, replied that his ministry did not ban the construction of new hotels in Shan State’s Taunggyi or Inle, or in Bagan or Mandalay.

U Chin Pe Lin of Mansi Township complained that Chinese farmers had been illegally planting crops in Kachin State’s Man Waing Gyi area near the Burma-China border for years, and called on the government to take action to halt it. Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Maj-Gen Aung Soe replied that the government would take action in line with the Burma Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act of 1947 if Chinese farmers were found to have trespassed on Burmese soil.

In the Upper House, education minister Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, in response to a lawmaker’s question, said that his ministry currently had no plan to open an arts and sciences university in Burma’s administrative capital of Naypyidaw.

U Kyaw Swe of Magwe Division (11) asked if the government had a plan to provide a sufficient number of hostels for university students. Union minister for education Dr. Myo Thein Gyi said there were budget constraints, but that his ministry had asked for 39 billion kyats for the construction of 62 hostels at 51 universities and colleges in the 2017-18 fiscal year, and was awaiting approval.

Thursday (Feb. 16)

In the Lower House, Daw Khin Saw Wai of Arakan State’s Rathedaung Township asked if the government had a plan to appoint a midwife to each village lacking a rural health care center or sub-center. Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe replied that Burma had 63,938 villages with 1,778 rural health care centers, and 7,551 sub-centers, and that his ministry currently has a workforce of 12,295 nurses, and the government had agreed to appoint 1,956 more before the end of the current fiscal year.

In the Upper House, the Union Minister for Planning and Finance U Kyaw Win submitted draft law on statistics.

The two houses have different views over some provisions in the draft law regarding the protection of privacy and the security of citizens, and will engage in a debate over the matter in the Union Parliament.

Friday (Feb. 17)

Burma’s President’s proposal to obtain a loan of 5 million euros from Germany’s KfW Development Bank was put forward to the Union Parliament. Lawmakers debated the taxation draft law.