Substantial defense budget sparks debate in Myanmar parliament
Details Published on Sunday, 03 March 2013 08:21
Lt Gen Wai Lwin speaking with parliamentarians (Photo – EMG)
Myanmar’s parliament has agreed to allocate one-fifth of the state budget for military spending after a parliamentarian debated last Friday.
It has been approved 20.87 percent of total state budget or a sum of 1067.37 billion kyats (US$1.2b) for defense ministry in the fiscal year 2013-2014.
During the Friday session, Steven Tharbeik, an MP from Constituency (4) of Chin State, proposed to review the budget for defense ministry. He highlighted that defense expense budget is now representing 24 percent of all the ministries’ state expense, and needs to be reduced to 17 percent.
“It’s learnt a country development is not measured by its army or its military power. It is generally measured by par capita, revenues, gross domestic product (GDP) ratio and poverty rates. So, we should focus on the economic development, reducing poverty and increasing individual’s earning,” Steven discussed during a parliamentary session on February 25.
Lt General Wai Lwin, Minister for Defense, argued Steven that although military expenses cannot be used to measure the economic development of a nation, failure of proper national planning and building military strength can lead to the loss of the country’s independence, sovereignty and lands at any time.
Steven’s proposal was rejected as there were 60 votes for and 445 votes against with 7 abstentions. The budget remains the same as over US$1.2 billion for defense.
Lt Gen Wai Lwin speaking with MP Steven Tharbeik (Photo – EMG)
Steven also added that more transparency is required on defense budget. Then, Lt Gen Wai Lwin countered certain things are kept confidential because the army is responsible for national security and because soldiers themselves have to keep their disciplines.
Lt Gen firmly added his ministry, giving the reason for national security, will not misuse public funds, and the military manpower is still less than a percent of country’s population.
He said the requested budget amount is intended to use in setting up weapon factories in order to reduce weapon imports, and to cover the rising costs of raw materials for military constructions.
The ministry, however, is cutting its spending; it used 28.9 percent of total state budget in fiscal year 2011-2012, 22.83 percent in 2012-2013 and now only 20.87 percent in coming 2013-2014 is under the plan, Wai Lwin added.
He vowed in the parliament, “Although our ministry is responsible for military budget, it is concerned with all the citizens, and (I am) presenting a national issue for all the people. We will use these public funds according to the financial policies.”