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Rakhine Lawmakers Criticize State Govt’s Proposed Budget

By Min Aung Khine 6 June 2018

SITTWE, Rakhine State — Rakhine State lawmakers called for a review of projects proposed by the state government in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

Lawmakers during an emergency meeting on Monday criticized the state government for asking for a budget three years in a row for an ongoing bridge construction project.

According to Sittwe Township lawmaker U Aye Thein, the state government asked for a total of four billion kyats (US$3 million) in the previous two fiscal years and again asked for 2.8 more billion kyats in the 2018-19 fiscal year for the construction of the Sat Yoe Kya Bridge in Sittwe.

However, the government has not provided a timeframe for the completion of the bridge or explained the total projected costs, he said.

“We don’t know when it will be complete or how much progress has been made in construction. [The state government] calculated the estimated costs, asked for money, spent it, and asked again, saying that it was not enough. This is a waste of public funds,” Sittwe Township lawmaker U Aye Thein told The Irrawaddy.

Lawmakers also criticized the large amount asked for by the Rakhine State General Administration Department (GAD), as the department asked for more than two billion kyats for construction and repairs to its staff quarters.

“The general administration department is not working alone for the country. Other departments are as well. Only the GAD asked for such a large amount of money while other departments did not,” said U Aye Thein.

He called for sharing the budget among other departments so that different projects can benefit the people. Lawmaker U Oo Than Naing of Rathedaung Township seconded his view.

“The GAD asked for a lot of money, for furniture and such. Are only GAD staff entitled to staff quarters? What about staff of other departments such as teachers?” asked the lawmaker.

He also criticized that the state government asked for one billion kyats for an economic zone in Maungdaw, saying that there has been almost no progress in building the zone.

“We inspected the zone on May 5 and found almost no preparation work although half of a billion kyats was asked for in the last (fiscal) year. If we allocate another billion kyats, that money will be wasted,” said the lawmaker.

Lawmakers also criticized the proposed budget for the resumption of river-water pumping projects in Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U, as those projects proved to be unsuccessful in previous years.

They also disapproved of asking for a budget to supply water to the Ngapali Hotel Zone and some wards in Thandwe, as a water supply system funded by locals on a self-reliant basis is already in place. A construction budget was also asked for and included some roads that had already been built.

“We were criticized last week for slashing the budget. But we have to do so for the interests of Rakhine people, and to display our loyalty and gratitude to them,” U Nai Aye Kyue told the state Parliament.

Rakhine State minister for planning and finance U Kyaw Aye Thein defended that the budget was drafted in coordination with concerned ministries and departments.

“It is not that I prepared the budget alone but together with other ministers and departments. Lawmakers wrongly think that the budget is prepared by the planning and finance ministry. We don’t know the detailed requirements of other departments. We only handle figures. Now, there is a misunderstanding, and I received the blame,” the minister told The Irrawaddy.

A budget should only be requested for the implementation of agriculture and livestock breeding projects, as well as other projects that will directly benefit the people, suggested the lawmakers.

The Rakhine State government has proposed a total of more than 110 billion kyats for the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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