New minister for planning and finance: ‘We can do a lot in two years’

By FRONTIER

YANGON — New Minister for Planning and Finance U Soe Win said the ministry can do “a lot” in the two years before the next election, after taking his oath of office in parliament yesterday.

The former Deloitte managing partner replaces U Kyaw Win, who resigned in May amid corruption allegations. Soe Win’s appointment has raised hopes that he will provide leadership on much-needed economic reforms, where his predecessor is widely seen to have failed.

“We should not underestimate the challenges,” Soe Win told reporters outside parliament. “I will consult with my team and [implement reforms] gradually.”

The new minister said he would focus on improving coordination between government ministries and would only take counsel from State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi “where needed”.

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“The state counsellor wants us to make decisions and work independently,” he said, adding: “What I want to say to the people is, keep cool and we are going to try our best.”

Soe Win is respected both by the National League for Democracy and the business community. He is a member of the party’s economic committee and the National Economic Coordination Committee, and he sits on the board of the Renaissance Institute, a think-tank that advises on economic policy.

U Min Khin, another RI board member, said Soe Win’s banking and private sector experience made him the “right person” for the job. Before embarking on a career in the private sector in 1996, the new minister worked at the State Commercial Bank and then at Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.

His membership of the NECC would also help him, Min Khin said. But he warned that the appointment of a new minister “itself cannot make much happen”.

“To have tangible outcomes, we need … realistic policy frameworks, empowerment, opening to participative assistance and [the] support of various stakeholders, inclusiveness, effective mechanisms to check and balance, transparency and so on,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission has completed an investigation into allegations against former minister Kyaw Win and submitted a report with its findings to the President’s Office on May 25 in line with section 16(e) of the Anti-Corruption Law.

Details of the report have not been made public and while the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, U Aung Kyi, has confirmed the former minister was under investigation, he has not indicated publicly whether the allegations have been substantiated.

Mr Sean Turnell, a special economic consultant to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, welcomed Soe Win’s appointment and said the new minister is “old but active and he’s internationally engaged”. An official resume puts Soe Win’s age at 80, making him the oldest minister in the cabinet.

“His age is certainly a factor but to me really outweighed by his international engagement which is I think in a sense unique among plausible candidates,” Turnell said.

“The other thing is that he was very much behind a lot of the policy development … before the new government came into place, most of which is yet to be implemented.”

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