Myanmar approves $2.4 billion budget for military

Featured South East Asia - March 7th, 2013

Myanmar has approved its $2.4 billion annual budget for its military, a figure that critics say dwarfs the impoverished country’s spending on education and health.

Myanmar’s parliament – dominated by allies of the former military junta – approved the figure, which is $100 million less than last year’s defense budget, last Friday.

The slight decrease underlines the sweeping economic reforms instituted by President Thein Sein since 2011.

“The defence budget is a little bit less than last year. They will invest about $1.25 billion buying the aircraft, weapons, etc,” Aye Maung, an upper-house MP of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, told AFP after the parliament reviewed the budget set for this year which totals $19.49 billion.

Still, the sum accounts for 20% of the $6 billion overall capital spending of Myanmar’s ministries, excluding other costs such as salaries, according to AFP.

The figure also leaves the country’s crumbling education and healthcare systems with less. Myanmar spends only $7 per year per person for health care, a mere 1.8% of the total budget and one of the lowest health spending rates in the world, according to a 2009 UN report.

Under the former military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades, the state budget was not released publicly to avoid scrutiny. According to analysts, the army benefited from the country’s funds, particularly from oil revenues.