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Myanmar should chew on defense expenses

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Myanmar or Burma's armed forces will spend Ks 2.2 trillion (US$2.3 billion) for its next fiscal year financial plan, the Defense Minister told during the ninth Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Parliament) session on 15 January.

Lt-Gen Wai Lwin said that defense sector based on condition of Myanmar's economy and maintains that the nation spends less on defense than many other countries, according to the Myanmar Freedom Daily. The defense minister cited neighboring Thailand, which spends US$ 5.39 billion annually on its military -- as well as Malaysia, which allocates $4.2 billion.

  In the 2013-14 fiscal year, 13.6% of Myanmar's national budget was spent on military expenditure -- in the coming year that figure may be reduced to 12.26%. Meanwhile the health budget for the coming fiscal year remains low, at 5% of the total budget.

Defense Minister Lt-Gen Wai Lwin gave details how the money would be due for covering military welfare, expenditures for of vehicles and machineries, training at military academies and sending officers abroad to attend training, according to the Eleven Media Group.

"When building a military camp, we build from dirt roads, macadam roads, paved roads and tar roads depending on the budget," said Lt-Gen Wai Lwin.

"Similarly, we have also planned tasks to maintain the roads and bridges that are useful for both military operations and rural development in military operation areas. Maintenance of military attaché buildings abroad is also included in our project," added the Defense Minister.  

According to government statistics, Myanmar's total income is Ks 16.5 trillion and its total expenditure is Ks 19.3 trillion, between 3 and 5 percent of which will go to health and education respectively.

The Defense Ministry of Myanmar should review the wrong policies in the past in order to protect the people's needy healthcare and schooling sectors.

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For example, Government's policies in Myanmar that curb public health and humanitarian aid have created an atmosphere where AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and vitamin deficiency are spreading without impediment, according to a 2006-March report by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In that report -- "Responding to AIDS, TB, Malaria and Emerging Infectious Diseases in Burma: Dilemmas of Policy and Practice March 2006"- authors Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH, director of the Bloomberg School's Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Luke Mullany, PhD, Voravit Suwanvanichkij, MD, MPH and Nicole Franck, MHS, document the spread of these infectious diseases, which if left unchecked, could pose a serious health threat to other Southeast Asia nations and the world.

The country's citizens are very poor not because the country has meager resources, but because the mismanagement of the country's leaders, including the incumbent semi-elected government, who refuse to acknowledge the exceedingly heavy burden of the defense budget.

Myanmar is one of Southeast Asia's most natural resource-rich countries. It earns billions of dollars yearly exporting natural resources such as oil and gas, teak, gems, and minerals. Sending natural gas overseas is the country's particular prime source of foreign revenue.

Myanmar has been exporting gas to Thailand from the Yetagun and Yadana offshore blocks located in Mottama Gulf since 1998 and 2000 respectively. In 2008 BP ranked Burma as the largest gas exporter via pipelines in the Asia-Pacific with gas exports totaling 9.7 bcm in 2007. This made it the 11th largest gas exporter in the world that year, according to the report Burma's Resource Curse: The case for revenue transparency in the oil and gas sector,  issued by Arakan Oil Watch , an independent, community-based, non-governmental organization operating in Myanmar.

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Nobody knows exactly how revenues from the sale of gas resources are spent.  However, it is easy to figure out that government spending for social improvement is stingy, while the military continues to enjoy the lion's share of state revenues.

In fact, most of those incomes from export never used in the public sectors especially in health and education. Those financial benefits constantly flow into the defense budget expending the military strength without facing any external threat.

With Chinese military hardware -- from rifles to tanks, jetfighters and warships -- previous military junta has strengthened the size of its army up above 400,000 men, including with approximately 70,000 child soldiers -- more than any other country in the region.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)
 

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