An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
The chairman of Myanmar's ruling party said on Friday he would stand as national president if nominated, and was willing to cooperate with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, or anyone working in the interests of the country. Shwe Mann, the speaker of Myanmar's parliament, also told a Washington think tank his party had "aspirations" to change the military-dominated constitution, but indicated time was running short ahead of November general elections.
Asked if would run as president if nominated, Shwe Mann, in Washington to meet U.S. officials and congressional leaders, replied: "Of course, if the USDP nominated me as a presidential candidate, I would be happy to accept."
Asked if he would be willing to enter a coalition with National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred under the constitution from standing as president because she was married to a foreigner, Shwe Mann said they were "very good friends with each other. At the same time we could be very good competitors!
"You are raising the question whether there is the possibility of forming a coalition government after the elections. Of course ... for the interests of the country and the people, I am ready to cooperate with (her) today, tomorrow and in the future," he added, speaking through a translator.
Derek Tonkin writes: Myanmar has a non-party presidential style executive goverment. Shwe Mann was no doubt referring to cooperation in the legislature, but many in the audience might not have understood this.
Yet, given the fact that over the past six decades the "guardianship" role of the Tatmadaw has become an end in itself, and that its current leadership still does not seem to have transcended this ideal, there is no indication that the military will renounce its legislative (and policymaking) prerogatives any time soon. This might prove too risky a venture for the military, an institution that has long distrusted civilians and that may be anxious about encountering a highly volatile, fragmented political situation after the general elections scheduled for the end of 2015. Prospects for even an incremental withdrawal of the Myanmar military from parliament, and more broadly from the country's political affairs, are therefore bleak.
Myanmar is preparing to hold national elections in early November 2015, five years after the last full set of polls brought the semi-civilian reformist government to power. The elections, which are constitutionally required within this timeframe, will be a major political inflection point, likely replacing a legislature dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), established by the former regime, with one more reflective of popular sentiment. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party of Aung San Suu Kyi is well-placed to take the largest bloc of seats.
Derek Tonkin writes: This briefing by the ICG provides an excellent guide to the background to the general elections planned for November 2015 and of the issues and political parties involved. It merits careful reading and retention for reference as the elections approach.
The Ministry of Electrical Power was a key recipient under the MMK20trn ($18.5bn) budget for 2015/16, which came into effect on April 1. According to local media, the ministry plans to spend MMK2.5trn ($2.3bn), including foreign loans, to improve electricity supply and distribution, making it the fourth-largest spender behind the finance, energy and defence portfolios. Since 2011, the ministry's budget has increased from MMK40.9bn ($37m) to MMK87.7bn ($81.3m), during which time capacity has risen from 1591 MW to 2300 MW.
Spending on education rose to just under MMK1.4trn ($1.3bn), up from MMK1.1trn ($1bn) last year, with some of the funds to be set aside for hiring an additional 50,000 teachers. In a separate move, the country's free schooling system will be extended to include higher education this year, in a bid to boost the number of graduates entering the workplace. The budget also approved resources for university stipends and scholarships as well as financial support for students attending technical institutions, as part of a push to boost take-up of vocational courses.
While Myanmar's economy is expected to perform strongly in the fiscal year 2015/16, with the ADB projecting GDP growth of 8.3%, advances will be offset by higher inflation. Consumer prices are forecast to reach as high as 8.1%, according to government data, compared to an ADB estimate of 8.4%, up from 6.5% in the last fiscal year.
Democratic Voice of Burma - 27 April 2015
Burma is one of 20 countries whose military expenditure is more than four percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a new report by a Swedish think tank. Alongside Burma in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) list are Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Chad, Libya, Israel, Russia, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
According to the report, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh are among the top purchasers of military equipment from prolific weapons seller China. The report also included a list of weapons Burma has bought from China, India and Russia in the last year. This includes warships, MiG-29 jet fighters, Mi-35P and Mi-24P military helicopters, tanks, shoulder-held rocket launchers and radar equipment.
The Asian Development Bank has estimated Burma’s military spending to be 4.8 percent of the GDP.
Derek Tonkin writes: The SIPRI report also provides what many would consider to be a fairer comparison of national defence expenditure, namely, the actual amount spent on defence per head of population. Quite clearly, richer countries need to spend only a smaller proportion of their GDP to achieve the same level of defence preparedness as their poorer neighbours.
Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar only spends US$ 44.2 per capita, compared with Singapore 1,789.0, Brunei 1,320.0, Malaysia 163.0, Thailand 85.3, Vietnam 46.0, Philippines 32.9, Indonesia 27.8, Cambodia 18.1 and Laos unrecorded. So just to catch up with Thailand, Myanmar would need to double its expenditure in terms of GDP – to more than 8%.
Member States voiced their continued support to the reform efforts of the Government in the areas of democratization, socio-economic development, and national reconciliation. They underlined the importance of the upcoming elections as a decisive phase in the reform agenda.
They also commended the resolve shown by President Thein Sein's Government and the ethnic armed groups in reaching a nationwide ceasefire accord, which took place on 31 March 2015. They expressed hope that early agreement would be reached on the framework for political dialogue that met the expectations of all stakeholders.
Referring to the ongoing communal tensions in Rakhine and elsewhere, Member States emphasized the need for firm and decisive action by the Government to prevent further conflict by resolving the substantive issues affecting those displaced by outbreaks of communal violence and addressing the underlying issues pertaining to status verification and citizenship for all the affected communities. They welcomed recent positive initiatives to address the humanitarian concerns. On the larger issues of citizenship and status, they hoped the Government would urgently undertake new measures in line with its national laws as well as international standards.