MP sees peace div­i­dend for health, ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Htoo Thant, trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

AN Amyotha Hlut­taw law­maker an­tic­i­pates a peace div­i­dend for Myan­mar’s ed­u­ca­tion and health­care sec­tors if decades of civil war can be brought to an end, say­ing money al­lo­cated to the Min­istry of De­fence could be di­rected else­where once the fight­ing stops.

“The Union Peace Con­fer­ence, or 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, will be held soon to make peace, to end war for­ever in our coun­try. If we can build peace, the ex­pen­di­ture on weapons will be de­creased sig­nif­i­cantly,” said U Ye Htut (NLD; Sa­gaing 5), speak­ing dur­ing a Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw ses­sion on Au­gust 19, when MPs dis­cussed a fi­nan­cial re­port from the Public Ac­count Joint Com­mit­tee on the Union Bud­get Law for 2016-17 and pro­posed amend­ments to it.

“If so, spend­ing for ed­u­ca­tion and health will surge sig­nif­i­cantly, and we can spend enough money on our chil­dren. The ex­pen­di­ture for these sec­tors will be as in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia,” he said.

The Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, slated to be­gin Au­gust 31, is the cen­tre­piece of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s early for­ays into Myan­mar’s peace process.

A spend­ing bill approved by the pre­vi­ous par­lia­ment in Jan­uary al­lo­cated nearly K2.9 tril­lion (US$2.43 bil­lion) for the Min­istry of De­fence, ac­cord­ing to Pyithu Hlut­taw law­maker Daw Khin San Hlaing (NLD; Palae), out of a to­tal K16.975 tril­lion bud­get for 2016-17. Spend­ing on ed­u­ca­tion and health was set at about K1.5 tril­lion and K830 bil­lion, re­spec­tively.

Daw Khin San Hlaing told The Myan­mar Times that in a re­vised bill sub­mit­ted to the Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw last month, the to­tal bud­get edged up to K16.978 tril­lion, but al­lo­ca­tions for those three sec­tors were un­changed.

One of four MPs to dis­cuss amend­ments to the bill on Au­gust 19, Daw Khin San Hlaing told par­lia­ment the ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment sec­tors – all ur­gently in need of larger bud­get al­lo­ca­tions – could get an ad­di­tional boost from an­tic­i­pated sav­ings re­sult­ing from a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of gov­ern­ment min­istries, which was approved ear­lier this year.

Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw has said es­ti­mated sav­ings as a re­sult of the down­siz­ing would to­tal about K5 bil­lion over the gov­ern­ment’s five-year term. Daw Khin San Hlaing said K5 bil­lion was enough to build 150 schools for a chron­i­cally un­der­funded na­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

She also pro­posed that more than K32 bil­lion, al­lo­cated for two fly­overs planned for Yan­gon but tar­geted for the chop­ping block ear­lier this year, in­stead be put to­ward ru­ral de­vel­op­ment projects. “As we all know, in each par­lia­ment con­cerned MPs are ask­ing over and over again whether there is a plan to build schools, clin­ics, roads and bridges – the ba­sic needs of their re­gions,” she said.

“When rel­e­vant min­istries have re­sponded to the ques­tions of MPs, the an­swers we have re­peat­edly heard are that these were not in­cluded in bud­get ap­pro­pri­a­tion, or were not in­cluded as priority cases, or would be con­sid­ered depend­ing on the bud­get al­lo­ca­tion,” Daw Khin San Hlaing said.

“On the other hand, we sadly found that some projects cost­ing bil­lions of ky­ats – for ex­am­ple, some dams and some river-wa­ter pump­ing projects – have been botched and are not ben­e­fit­ting peo­ple in re­al­ity,” she said, adding that greater at­ten­tion needed to be paid to ef­fec­tive public spend­ing.

Fel­low Pyithu Hlut­taw law­maker U Ba Shein (Arakan Na­tional Party; Kyauk­phyu) said he agreed with a sec­tion of the Public Ac­count Joint Com­mit­tee’s re­port that rec­om­mended dif­fer­en­ti­ated spend­ing across the coun­try’s 14 states and re­gions on ba­sic sec­tors such as ed­u­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion.

“I found that the bud­get al­lo­cates the same amount for both ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas. The trans­porta­tion costs in ur­ban ar­eas are cheaper than ru­ral ar­eas, so I’d like to ad­vo­cate al­lo­cat­ing the bud­get in ac­cor­dance with the con­di­tions of a given re­gion,” he said.

Fol­low­ing last week’s dis­cus­sion, Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than (NLD; Kayin 7) an­nounced that the Min­istry of Plan­ning and Fi­nance would fur­ther elab­o­rate on the pro­posed 2016-17 bud­get at a ses­sion of the Union par­lia­ment to­day, when a vote on the spend­ing bill in its en­tirety is ex­pected.

‘The ex­pen­di­ture in these sec­tors will be as in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia.’

U Ye Htut Na­tional League for Democ­racy

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