Hlut­taw re­sumes with an aim to re­work the bud­get

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by San Layy and Khine Thazin Han

Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans re­turn from their month-long re­cess to­day and will face a range of tasks, start­ing with a pro­posed re­vi­sion of the bud­get put into place by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

FRESH from a stint back in their con­stituen­cies, mem­bers of par­lia­ment have now re­turned to Nay Pyi Taw for the sec­ond hlut­taw ses­sion since last Novem­ber’s elec­tions. As the new ses­sion opens to­day, they face a range of is­sues, start­ing with a pro­posed re­vi­sion of the bud­get law.

Nor­mally, par­lia­ment passes bud­get bills in March or April, to­ward the end of the fi­nan­cial year, af­ter pro­tracted de­bate on the mer­its of the var­i­ous pro­pos­als in the draft bud­get. But this year par­lia­ment, then con­trolled by the Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party, de­cided in Jan­uary to present the bud­get ready­made to the in­com­ing Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment, re­sult­ing in a sit­u­a­tion where out­go­ing mem­bers de­feated at the polls were ef­fec­tively ty­ing the hands of their suc­ces­sors.

Last March, for­mer Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann ac­knowl­edged that the K24 tril­lion (US$20 bil­lion) bud­get for 2016-17 – which in­cludes a K3 tril­lion deficit – had been passed in haste, and pro­posed a set of wide-rang­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to the new gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing a re­view of the bud­get.

The Jan­uary bud­get was adopted by a gov­ern­ment com­pris­ing 33 min­istries, a num­ber that the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment cut to 22 by merg­ing their func­tions. Last month, Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw pledged to in­crease pub­lic spend­ing on ed­u­ca­tion, health and so­cial se­cu­rity start­ing this fis­cal year with re­vi­sions to the spend­ing plan.

Now a com­bined par­lia­men­tary team, with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the up­per and lower houses, will ex­am­ine pro­pos­als for re­vi­sion and re­port to the joint pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee over pro­posed al­ter­ations, af­ter which they will be put to the hlut­taw for ap­proval.

U Hla Moe, sec­re­tary of the Pyithu Hlut­taw rights com­mit­tee from Aung Myay Tharzan town­ship, Man­dalay Re­gion, said ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion was no longer ap­pro­pri­ate for the new gov­ern­men­tal struc­ture and should be amended. Other laws re­quir­ing re­vi­sion, he said, in­cluded those gov­ern­ing the right to peace­ful assem­bly and pro­ces­sion, and the ap­point­ment of ward or vil­lage ad­min­is­tra­tors. Re­vised drafts of those laws had been ap­proved by the Amyotha Hlut­taw and re­ported to the lower house.

“There are other trou­ble­some laws that have to be looked at as well. Ven­dors at the Zeigyo Mar­ket, Man­dalay, have asked me to raise in par­lia­ment the ques­tion of dou­ble tax­a­tion,” he said.

Re­vised laws on fresh­wa­ter fish­eries, and the struc­ture and mem­ber­ship of the city de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tees of Yan­gon and Man­dalay, will also be scru­ti­nised in the hlut­taw.

In ad­di­tion to the five laws pro­posed by the Amyotha Hlut­taw and await­ing fi­nal ap­proval by the Pyithu Hlut­taw, there are more than 40 ques­tions, put by MPs, that await an­swers, as well as a pro­posal for re­duc­ing il­le­gal drug use in north­ern Shan State, sub­mit­ted by the state’s Amyotha Hlut­taw MP Sai Wan Hlaing Kham.

Daw Nan Moe, Pyithu Hlut­taw MP for Man­ton, Shan State, said, “Some­thing must be done about dis­placed per­sons, who need ac­com­mo­da­tion and food. Also, some pro­vi­sion should be made for the com­ing winter.”

The MP’s at­tempt last May to spur par­lia­men­tary ac­tion on aid for the 400 peo­ple in her con­stituency dis­placed by armed con­flict was frus­trated when Speaker U Win Myint asked her to change her pro­posal into a ques­tion.

“That caused delay. The prob­lems have not gone away, and the pub­lic may feel ag­grieved that noth­ing has been done. I’m not go­ing to give up on this,” she said.

On re­view­ing the per­for­mance of the first ses­sion of the hlut­taw, hu­man rights ad­vo­cate U Hla Moe pro­nounced it fairly suc­cess­ful. “The hlut­taw ap­pointed a gov­ern­ment that en­joys pub­lic sup­port. That’s a big suc­cess in it­self,” he said, adding that par­lia­ment had also agreed to ap­point Daw Aung San Suu Kyi state coun­sel­lor.

“I know there are crit­ics, but many in­com­ing mem­bers had lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence. The com­ing ses­sion will be a very ac­tive one,” he said.

Photo: Aung Khant

MPs stand while Speaker U Win Myint en­ters the Pyithu Hlut­taw on March 11.

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