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Burma’s Finance Minister Win Shein has confirmed a plan to increase the salaries of government workers from April this year.
Speaking in the union parliament on Thursday, he said the lowest paid civil servant, who currently earns 70,000 kyat (US$70) per month, will have their salary raised to 120,000 kyat, while those in the highest pay grade, senior officials taking home 250,000 kyat, will see their monthly salary double to 500,000 kyat.
He added that government employees will, however, have to forfeit the 30,000 kyat (US$30) stipend per month that they currently enjoy.
Ye Tun, a lower house MP from Shan State’s Thibaw Township, noted to DVB that the gap between the lowest and highest paid civil servants is widening under the new pay scale.
“The minister did not explain why, but according to the new pay scale the difference between the lowest and highest paid civil servants will widen from 330 percent to 420,” he said.
Meanwhile, a deputy government minister, one level above the pay grade of high-ranking civil servants such as the director a government department, presently enjoys a two million kyat ($2,000) per month salary.
The Thibaw representative called on the government to keep its spending tight in order to prevent inflation.
“I would like to urge the government to keep its spending tight to prevent inflation and to instead focus on closing tax loopholes to prevent the bleeding of the national budget,” said Ye Tun. “As I am from a constituency along the China-Burma trade routes, I know that the country is not fully receiving the tax it deserves.”
Economy columnist Hla Maung said pay rises for civil servants should be carefully calculated to cover their living expenses.
“The pay rise should be calculated based upon the cost of living and should correspond to the minimum wage,” he said. “Otherwise the pay rises will never be enough to cover living expenses.”
An announcement by the Finance Ministry on 25 March said the new pay scale would promote the living standards of civil servants.
It said that an increase in pensions for retired civil servants would be announced separately.
In January, the Burmese parliament formally approved the bill to raise MPs’ salaries.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has announced salary increases for servicemen – with wages to rise to up to 120,000 kyat for the lowest ranking soldier, up to some three million kyat per month for the commander-in-chief.
In its most recent report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned that “Increases in government spending and higher civil service salaries could sharply widen the fiscal deficit to 6.3 percent of GDP.”
ADB said that the GDP growth in Burma, officially known as Myanmar, stands at 7.7 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year, due to end in a few days. It estimated growth at 8.3 percent for the year ahead but noted that inflation continues to keep abreast of development, estimating an inflation rate of 8.4 percent for 2015-16.