Burma parliament warns government over unpaid debts

Burma parliament warns government over unpaid debts

Burma’s union parliament on Tuesday urged the government to roll out a plan for dealing with an estimated US$1.1 billion in ministerial debts, accrued over years of military rule.

According to a mid-year report by the Union Auditor General’s Office, examining expenditures for the fiscal year 2013-2014, 15 ministries are yet to repay outstanding loans borrowed from the central government over years of junta rule.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation reportedly owes the largest amount of money, reaching 400 billion kyat (US$400 million), followed by the Ministry of Electric Power that owes 270 billion kyat (US$270 million).

Presenting the report to parliament on Tuesday, the Public Accounts Committee called on the government to develop a swift plan for ministries to clear this “tremendous debt”.

Aung Tun Thet, a professor and economic advisor to the president, told DVB that it would be difficult for the current government ministers to resolve the crisis as the debts had been incurred for an unknown amount of years and before they took office.

“A collective effort is needed to sort out this issue – it could be tough for the current ministry officials to resolve the debts incurred throughout previous years and they will have to conduct a detailed inquiry into past spending,” said Aung Tun Thet.

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“But they have to deal with it as their ministries are in debt.”

The auditor’s report also noted that government expenditures for the fiscal year 2012-2013 left a deficit of 2.5 trillion kyat (US$2.5 billion). The government reportedly spent 13 trillion kyat (US$13 billion) over the previous fiscal year, compared to 10.5 trillion kyat (US$10.5 billion) accrued in revenue.

Burma’s quasi-civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, faces an arduous task of getting the country’s finances in order following decades of mismanagement under the military regime.

Last year, another report by the auditor-general accused six ministries of siphoning off billions of kyat in government funds and various other illegal transactions.

Burma currently ranks 172 out of 176 on Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Over the years of military rule, which formally ended in 2011, government expenditures including ministerial budgets were managed with notorious secrecy.

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