MPs lambast Yangon Region budget bill

YANGON — Regional lawmakers have rounded on the regional government over its draft 2017-18 budget, describing it as a betrayal of the National League for Democracy’s promise for “real change”.

Yangon Region Minister for Planning and Finance U Myint Thaung submitted the K424 billion budget for the financial year beginning April 1, 2017, to the Yangon Region Hluttaw on Tuesday.

Nineteen lawmakers debated the budget bill on Thursday, with many criticising the lack of time given to examine the bill and what they described as the inclusion of “unnecessary” projects and expenses.

Some accused the government of behaving like its predecessor, with U Nay Phone Latt (NLD, Thingangyun-1) describing the budget as no better than those passed by the former regional government.

He said the government was elected on a promise of “time for change” and the budget represented a betrayal of this promise.

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The budget should have been drafted with input from MPs so that the wishes of the public were considered, he said.

“The budget should be done through the cooperation of all,” he told reporters after the session. “The budgeting process shows what kind of government a country has. … We’ve seen no change yet and it seems likely that everything will remain the same.”

He noted that the proposed budget includes funding for the construction of golf courses, which were only affordable for the elite. Meanwhile, a “huge” increase had been requested for bridges, he said.

“Those who designed the budget need to know more about the principles of the new government,” he said. “That the new government would use the old budget system is damaging for its image.”

Other lawmakers also picked holes in the government’s request. Daw Kyi Pya (NLD, Kyauktada-1) said that the Auditor-General’s Office had requested funds for 42 photocopiers, despite eight having already been bought last year.

“YCDC [Yangon City Development Committee] builds toilets every year within its YCDC area, but actually there are no [public] toilets in my township. Similarly, they request money for housing for staff, but there’s no housing for any YCDC workers in my township,” she said. “As a democratic country, the budget needs to be transparent.”

U Win Maung (NLD, Hlaing Tharyar-1) said he had no complaints about the amount allocated to his township but was concerned about implementation. He said the government had so far failed to implement lots of promised projects and the public was “waiting with eagerness to see what happens next”.

“I hope the regional government keeps its promises,” he told the assembly.

U Zaw Moe Lwin (NLD, Kyauktan-1) said the government had failed to ensure transparency, with even MPs in the dark on which budgeted projects had been completed and which were ongoing. Efforts to get information from the bureaucracy often ended in stonewalling.

“Some departmental officials do as they like. They show a lot of disrespect to lawmakers,” he said.

After the heated discussion, the minister, Myint Thaung, admitted that the budget bill had weaknesses. He said it was prepared in a rush because the Union government had instructed regional governments to submit their draft budgets by December 10.

He said that the budget bill would be reviewed in consultation with the MPs.

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