Friday, August 18, 2017

Myanmar MPs expect long session as budget debate looms

The sixth session of parliament is likely to run for longer than previous sessions because MPs will need to approve the 2013-14 budget and national planning bills, Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann said last week.

The session will begin on January 9. MPs are also expected to consider a tax law, special economic zone law and investment law for Myanmar citizens, the speaker said at a coordination meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on January 1.

Representatives said they expected the session could take two months or more.

“Last year the budget session took a long time, from about January to the end of March. The agenda for that session also included the planning [law],” said U Thein Nyunt, the Pyithu Hluttaw member for Yangon’s Thingangyun.

He said he had already sent one bill, two proposals and 10 questions ahead of the session but would not give further details, citing parliamentary rules.

Daw Phyu Phyu Thinn from the National League for Democracy said she would ask two budget-related questions, one on transportation and another on municipal affairs.

But political analysts said that while the budget is important the hluttaw also needed to make progress on solving internal conflicts.

However, finding time in the crowded parliament agenda could prove difficult.

“This time the budget will be the main focus but there are questions and motions left over from the former session. Some new questions and motions will be presented this time but I think they can only manage to discuss some of these,” said Ko Kyaw Lin Oo, a political commentator for local publications.

He said that committees and commissions formed in respect to the fighting in Kachin State and Letpadaung mine unrest needed to show concrete progress, while MPs should also examine changes to the foreign investment law by-laws and disputes over recent ward and village-tract administrator elections.

“This session the parliamentarians will have to work very hard. But whether the efforts of the hluttaw are of benefit to the people also depends partly on the performance of the executive bodies. If they don’t follow the rules passed by the legislature correctly, the aim of the parliament won’t be fulfilled.”

Observers will also be looking for greater input and influence from NLD representatives, who have been criticised in some quarters for their perceived passiveness since entering the hluttaw in early May 2012.

Daw Phyu Phyu Thinn said this was partly because the NLD representatives had to wait for a backlog of “hundreds of questions and motions” from previous sessions to be heard.

She said that all MPs should do their job properly, whether they were from the NLD, other parties or appointed by the commander-in-chief.

But Ko Kyaw Lin Oo said the NLD had to accept that the public expects more of its representatives than those from other parties.

“In the last session, we found that NLD representatives did not participate in discussions very often. Because they are democracy advocates, they need to work more than that. If this continues, there will be questions over what they are doing in the hluttaw,” he said.

He said there had been some disbelief among observers at reports that the NLD would submit a motion to legalise prostitution during the upcoming session.

“Isn’t there anything else more important than that in the country? There are still many other issues that need to be addressed, such as education, health and social security. I want to know why they raise this issue [of prostitution] now,” he said.

– Translated by Thit Lwin