Parliamentarians should aim to make the “people’s dream” a reality through the planning and budget bills, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker said at the opening of the sixth session last week.
Speaker U Khin Aung Myint urged representatives to keep the needs of the people at the forefront of their minds when assessing the government’s budget and national planning bills for 2013-14, adding that job creation must be a priority.
“National planning is one of the most important jobs that representatives of the people have to do. They should seriously judge the realities of the lives of the people,” he said at the opening of the session on January 10.
“Regarding democracy, General Aung San said that it meant the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people must be fulfilled. For the happiness of the majority of people, eradication of unemployment is crucial. There are many people in rural area who possess no farm, no livestock and are out of work. There are still those who only seek medical care from the roadside betel shop,” he said.
“[Representatives] will have to assess whether planning bills submitted to the hluttaw are centred on the needs of the majority of the people, whether they will do good for the poor from rural areas.”
“‘People’s voice is hluttaw’s voice; people’s will is hluttaw’s will.’ I invented these two mottos. ‘People’s dream – hluttaw will have to make it come true.” This motto was supplemented by the Pyithu Hluttaw speaker. This motto is to be borne in mind when discussing the topic of national planning.”
He also stressed the importance of keeping the government accountable and ensuring cohesion between the planning and budget bills.
“When the national planning bill has been approved, the Union Government will have to formulate a budget law bill in conformity with those plans. If the budget draft does not match the planning law the hluttaw has approved, they will have to revise and submit it again. The budget bill is the planning bill re-written with figures. So what the hluttaw will have to check is whether it matches the planning bill and meets requirement of people,” he said.
“We will have to check whether prices of basic foods will go up because of the budget deficit, whether unemployment is a growing problem and whether investment and economic growth are satisfactory.
“We will have to assess whether the amount of money we expect to receive is likely to receive actually or whether taxes which should be levied are actually received.”
U Khin Aung Myint also highlighted the important role of the Joint Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for auditing ministries and ensuring the budget approved by the hluttaw conforms to financial rules. He said the committee needed to be able to meet senior ministry officials to get actual statistics, rather than the derived figures provided by the ministries.
“The by-laws state that the committee is entitled to invite an official who can explain and ask questions in coordination with the relevant departments,” he said.
Section 58(a) of the Union Government Law also states that a minister or deputy minister should be assigned to answer queries and provide data if requested by the hluttaws or committees, commissions and bodies formed by them.
“Please invite them and let them explain. The joint people’s accounts committee should work harder. If there is any obstacle to them, consult with the speaker,” he said.
Noting that 57 MPs were on leave, U Khin Aung Myint also warned representatives that he would be closely monitoring their performance, particularly in terms of attendance.
“I will tell you what the people think of MPs who take leave. On the third day of the fifth session – November 2, 2012 – the number of leave-taking MPs set a record with 168. On November 1, 155 took leave. Some of young men I met on the plane on the way back to Nay Pyi Taw said that they got annoyed when they watched the TV news and heard that [so many MPs] leave on those days. They thought it must have been because they were pursuing their own business interests at the same time as enjoying cash from the public purse,” he said.
“I explained that since the hluttaw was in recess from October 27 to 31 for [Thadingyut] they might have taken a long holiday. However, absentees please consider whether my explanation is reasonable. You should take note that people who are interested in hluttaw politics even know how many MPs take leave,” he said.
“Hluttaw sessions are very important for the people; MPs should attend without fail unless they have a life-threatening excuse.”
Translated by Thit Lwin