Military prioritised as Burma expands airforce

A new Burmese annual budget has been revealed that prioritises inordinate military expenditure over healthcare, and which received no oversight by the country’s new parliament.

Some 1.8 trillion kyat ($US2.04 billion), or 23 percent of annual spending, will be channelled to Burma’s nearly 500,000-strong military. A breakdown of the budget received by DVB shows that this includes an 848 billion kyat ($US9.6 million) capital account dedicated to new investment or purchases.

The healthcare sector will meanwhile receive only 9.5 billion kyat ($US110 million), or 1.3 percent of the total budget. This equates to around $US2 per person per year.

The leader of the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF) party, Khin Maung Swe, told DVB that his party was seeking a significant increase in health and education spending.

“Our party policy is asking for an increase in allocation to health. As far as we know the military is spending two percent on education and health and we want to raise it to nine to 10 percent.” He added that a parliament representative would bring up the issue, but noted that MPs were not permitted to “disclose parliamentary affairs”.

The significant money being directed towards the military coincides with the purchase of 20 Russian MiG-29 fighter jets, thought to worth $US553 million and whicy will reportedly double the fleet of the fighter planes.

The deal was signed in 2009 and follows the purchase of used MiG-29s from Belarus which had a high attrition rate and broke down often.

The additional 20 MiGs, purchased directly from the Russian state exporter, Rosoboronexport, should drastically improve the Burmese military’s aerial capabilities, but remains somewhat short of neighbouring Thailand’s capabilities, with the recent arrival of Swedish JAS 39 Gripens and the US F-16s already in their arsenal.

Accompanying the new budget were fresh laws enacted in order “to carry out tasked duties when the parliaments are convened, and to carry out advance preparations with accordance of the law, it is necessary to commission respective laws.”

This will draw serious questions about the intentions, or indeed ineffectiveness, of the new parliament, with elected representatives unable to determine budget allocations and a sense that the budget is ‘for’ parliament, and not ‘by’ parliament.

Analysts however note however that much of the allocation for military expenditure and military wages would not even show up on documents seen by DVB because they would be intentionally kept off-record.

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