This Week in Parliament (March 13-17)

By The Irrawaddy 18 March 2017

In the Union Parliament, lawmakers continued their debate on the draft Union Budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The Parliament approved President Htin Kyaw’s proposal to spend 400 million kyats from the reserve funds of the 2016-17 fiscal year budget to carry out works contributing to the sustainability of Shan State’s Inle Lake.

Tuesday (March 14)

In the Lower House, Daw Khin Moh Moh Aung of Latha Township asked if the Union government would make public the list of foreign investments and companies agreed upon under U Thein Sein’s government between 2011 and 2015, including Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) signed with international investors. Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung Win replied that the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) was reviewing 60 out of 101 MoUs signed between the former U Thein Sein-led government and international investors, without providing further details.

Despite serious concerns and objections from locals, the Lower House voted to approve Paung Township lawmaker Mi Kon Chan’s proposal to name a bridge across the Salween River in Mon State—linking Moulmein and Chaungzon—after Burma’s independence icon, Gen Aung San.

In Upper House, the parliamentary committees submitted reports on their respective functions. The Health, Sports and Culture Committee in its report urged the Upper House to take a tough line on fraudulent doctors, saying that patients in rural areas have lost lives because of them.

Wednesday (March 15)

The Union Parliament approved the national planning bill for 2017-18 fiscal year, suspending 33 out of 44 government-run factories. The Joint Bill Committee had earlier suggested that 44 state-run factories—34 factories under Industry Ministry, and 10 factories under Ministry of Electricity and Energy—should be suspended, saying that they are not economically viable. Among the suspended factories are steel, glass, textile, pulp, plastic, fertilizer, petrochemical plants and an oil refinery. However, the salaries and allowances for workers of those factories were not cut in the budget.

Thursday (March 16)

In the Union Parliament, lawmakers debated the President’s proposal to spend US$22 million from the reserve funds of 2016-17 fiscal year budget; to obtain a loan of 23.883 million Euro from KfW Bank of Germany to supply electricity to 416 villages in southern Shan State; and to obtain a loan of US$200 million from the Development Policy Operation (DPO) of the World Bank.

Friday (March 17)

The Union Parliament approved the 2017-18 fiscal year budget and all the proposals debated on Thursday. This was the first budget drafted by the NLD government. The Parliament has cut more than 300 billion kyats from the proposed budget of nearly 21 trillion kyats; however it did not cut the budget of the defense ministry, which proposed around 2.9 trillion kyats or nearly 14 percent of the original budget.

Ministry of Planning and Finance gets the largest share, more than 20 percent, followed by the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, with nearly 20 percent, whereas the health and education budget accounts for a combined 13 percent.

The fourth regular session of the Parliament ended on Friday.