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Rangoon Lawmakers Ask That City Expansion Project be Separated from Planning Bill

By Moe Myint 23 March 2017

RANGOON – Outspoken lawmakers urged the Rangoon regional government on Thursday not to continue city expansion without what they referred to as a “proper” business plan.

In a debate session on the regional planning bill for 2017-2018, legislators asked that the expansion project, which was submitted as part of the bill, be re-submitted to the parliament separately.

On behalf of the divisional government, U Myint Thaung, minister of national planning and finance, submitted the regional planning bill to Rangoon’s parliament on Monday. The bill contained budget allocations for relevant ministries, agriculture, electricity, and plans for developing the urban area and its infrastructure, as well as expected GDP growth in the commercial capital during the next fiscal year. It also contained budget specification for 44 townships.

Regional legislator U Kyaw Zeya of Dagon Constituency (2) recommended that the divisional government bring Rangoon’s southwest district expansion before the parliament, given the high cost of the project.

Daw Sandar Min of Seik Kyee Kha Naungtoe Constituency (1) said that since lawmakers have a responsibility to outline whether a project could bring potential benefits or disadvantages to the public, the regional government needed to provide detailed information about it in the legislature. Lawmakers would then debate the feasibility of the project for their constituencies and analyze whether it would meet accepted standards. Daw Sandar Minn also pointed out that draft law on national planning requires parliamentary approval for such expansion projects.

U Kyaw Zeya questioned whether the city expansion would automatically be approved by the parliament if the lawmakers were to pass the regional planning bill.

Daw Sandar Min said, “Adding a note about a city expansion project as a part of the regional planning bill is unacceptable. That project is not a small one, and will cost billions.”

She also criticized the approval of the project by the previous military-backed government, with three successful bidders: Yangon South West Development, Shwe Popa International, and Business Capital City Development. The newly elected the National League for Democracy (NLD) government reviewed the project and changed policies and procedures regarding transparency.

It remains unclear how the board of directors on the project would be formed, and whether the regional government would create its own design for the master plan or would delegate it to private companies.

According to lawmakers, the Rangoon divisional government would control 51 percent of a total share of the expansion project and the other 49 percent would be handled by the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association (MCEA), which is made up of more than 200 construction firms across Burma. The regional government had been considering adding an economic expert to the government’s side to assist five regional ministers as directors. The MCEA will have five members on the Board of Directors.

“I would like to recommend that the government not invest if they [the ministers] are incapable of doing business, because that is public money,” Daw Sandar Min said to reporters after the parliamentary session.

The Finance, Planning and Economic committee is investigating the 49 percent share held by MCEA, and whether the group had changed from a private to a public company. Currently, MCEA’s 26 core members and three others have invested 100 million kyats each, and some have put forward three times that amount.

“Such amount is insufficient to implement a huge city expansion project…The project should not continue without having proper business plan,” said Daw Sandar Min.

Six MPs discussed the regional planning bill on Thursday and a vote will be held on it next Thursday.

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