US$1.2 billion proposed for Burma’s Defence budget

US$1.2 billion proposed for Burma’s Defence budget

Burma’s Ministry of Defence on Tuesday proposed a 1.2 trillion kyat (US$1.2 billion) budget for the coming year, the highest amount requested by any government ministry.

The ninth session of parliament, which began on Monday, heard budget proposals from several government bodies including the Union Supreme Court and 18 ministries.

“The Defence Ministry submitted a proposal for a 1.2 trillion kyat budget – the highest amount proposed for this year’s national planning,” said Min Thu, lower house representative of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

“Deputy-defence minister Lt-Gen Wai Lwin explained to parliament that the defence budget … can be regarded as an investment,” he said.

The 1.2 trillion kyat budget constitutes 12.26 percent of national spending for the 2014-5 fiscal year, a marked decrease from previous years despite being the loftiest proposal.

Burma’s Ministry of Defence has consistently been granted an extravagant budget; for fiscal year 2013-4, more than 20 percent of national spending was allocated to the military.

The decision was decried by several MPs claiming that military expenditures lack transparency and accountability, and expressing concern that Burma’s notorious armed forces were still misusing funds in ethnic areas.

In addition to the disproportionate sum regularly granted to the ministry, Burma’s military also benefits from a Special Funds Law, which allows the army chief to channel unlimited finance to the military without parliamentary consent.

Last week President Thein Sein pledged to increase spending for education and healthcare during the coming fiscal year. The proposed changes would increase the education budget from 5.43 to 5.92 percent, and the health budget from 3.15 to 3.38 percent.

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