By HEIN KO SOE | FRONTIER
YANGON — The Yangon Region Hluttaw speaker yesterday halted discussion over the regional budget for 2018-19, after lawmakers refused to approve spending on cars and a bank.
The regional government proposed a K648.88 billion budget, of which more than K300 billion would go to Yangon City Development Committee. The spending request was more than 50 percent up on the K424 billion that the regional government proposed in 2017-18.
Lawmakers took exception to two particular spending requests: K1 billion for 10 cars to be used by cabinet members and K6.8 billion for YCDC-operated Yangon City Bank.
The Yangon Region government Yangon City Bank wants to deposit the money with the Central Bank of Myanmar so it can qualify for a foreign currency authorised licence. The regional government could then implement plans to take a foreign currency loan with German development agency GIZ and re-lend it to small and medium enterprises.
Daw Sandar Min (National League for Democracy, Seikgyikanaungto-1), chair of the parliament’s planning and economy committee, said that cabinet members should use their own cars to save the country money.
“In 2016 State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reduced the number of union government ministries in order to save money. We should question why the regional government is now planning to spend so much money on new cars,” she said.
Regarding the City Bank plans, she said that the proposal was unnecessary because other banks in Myanmar were already offering SME loans.
Minister for Finance U Myint Thaung said the government would not cancel its plans.
Before lawmakers could vote on the issue, speaker U Tin Maung Tun (NLD, Dagon-1) called for a 10-minute break, after which he announced they would send the proposal back to Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein.
He explained that it was just a proposal and would still need approval from the Financial Commission and Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in Nay Pyi Taw. After this it would be sent back to the regional parliament as a bill, most likely in September, when Tin Maung Tun said lawmakers would have another chance to discuss the budget.
The decision ended several days of heated discussion over the proposed budget, which was tabled last week.
Sandar Min said that in the past two years lawmakers did not have enough experience to properly examine the government’s spending proposals, but this year had checked more carefully.
They also re-examined the budgets for 2016-17 and 2017-18 and had recently referred several projects – including K70 billion allocated for buses to run on the Yangon Bus System, K64 billion in the and K7.7 billion spent upgrading farmland – to the regional auditor-general for review.
“We approved these projects because we weren’t familiar with the budget process,” Sandar Min said. “But we don’t know how they used the money, how much of it they used and what the process was. The auditor-general has to examine those things.”