After a successful pilot scheme, seemingly free from much threatened military interference, the NUG on Thursday launched its Spring Lottery in earnest.
One of three key fundraising initiatives launched by the NUG’s Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment, revenue from the lottery will bolster anticipated income generated by both the Internal Revenue Department’s alternate fiscal system, and the sale of treasury bonds.
NUG’s Ministry for Planning, Finance and Investment has previously announced that the government’s projected budget for the fiscal year comes in at close to US$800 million. The NUG says that it currently receives US$150,000 a month in taxes, whilst the sale of bonds worth US$200 million are scheduled to begin next week.
70 percent of the proceeds from the opening lotto, for which ticket sales had opened in August, had been donated to help support CDM civil servants. In addition, after the 75 winners were announced, 62 immediately decided to donate their prizes to revolutionary causes.
In the face of regular threats from the junta against those promoting or participating in the lottery, the pilot project saw all 250,000 tickets sell out online during a seven hour sales window spread across ten days. The parallel government says it raised a total of K5,000 lakh (US$275,000), which was distributed to 5,800 CDM civil servants. Despite the huge logistical hurdles, organizers managed to successfully collect payment and redistribute wages behind the backs of military authorities.
With the hard launch of the Spring Lottery, the NUG is expecting to raise K20 billion (~US$11 million) with each monthly draw. This time around, tickets will be on sale every day from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. until the end of November.
“If we support one CDM staff at the rate of K100,000 [US$60], [with this larger amount] we can support nearly 200,000 staff. We are planning to provide them continuous support,” said NUG Deputy Minister for Planning, Finance and Investment U Min Zeyar Oo.
Since the coup, Burma’s national Aung Barlay Lottery—a formerly wildly popular, 143-year-old lotto organized by the state—has seen revenues fall by around 80 percent after a successful boycott of what was a significant money-spinner for the military. In a farcical attempt to emulate the success of the NUG, the junta recently said that it was to relaunch the Aung Barlay online.
Despite the junta claiming it was to reverse the huge decline in both the lottery’s popularity and its top prize money, the Aung Barlay’s most recent draw saw winners recoup winnings that were just one third the amount of those seen pre-coup. Furthermore, winners have seen their prizes held in accounts opened at a military-owned bank, with restrictions limiting withdrawals to roughly US$200 per day. With all this in mind, choosing to capitalise on Burma’s love of lotto could turn out to be a very good gamble for both the NUG and the country’s striking civil servants.