RANGOON — Nearly one-quarter of Burma's new national budget will go to defense, an official publication reported Tuesday, following an election that was supposed to hand power to a civilian government after decades of military rule.
A newly elected parliament met in January for the first time in two decades but apparently was not given oversight of the budget: The document was enacted before the legislature sat on Jan. 31, according to the Government Gazette.
That wasn't the only sign that the transfer of power from the ruling junta — many of whose members resigned in order to run as "civilians" — may happen in name only.
The budget earmarked 20 billion kyat (about $22 million at free market rates of exchange) for the office of the State Peace and Development Council, the official name of the junta. It had been widely assumed the junta would be officially abolished under the new regime.
The gazette reported that 1.8 trillion kyat ($2 billion), or 23.6 percent of the budget this year, will go to defense. The health sector, meanwhile, will get 99.5 billion kyat ($110 million), or 1.3 percent.
Burma is one of Asia's poorest countries, reflected in its health indicators. It had the 44th highest infant mortality rate of the 193 countries listed by the UNICEF in its 2011 State of the World's Children report.
The budget was not been publicized in the mass media, a pattern that has held for at least a decade.
The energy sector will receive the second largest budget share, getting over 1 trillion kyat ($1.1 billion) or about 13 percent of the 7.6 trillion kyat ($8.45 billion) budget.
Burma has vast reserves of natural gas, which is the country's leading export commodity, and is starting large-scale development of hydropower.
The education sector will receive 314 billion kyat ($349 million), or 4.13 percent.
The budget also makes no provisions for two new ministries established by parliament last month, the Ministry of the President's Office and the Ministry of Myanmar Industrial Development.
Source by : Irrawaddy