Myanmar: Govt to spend more on health, education; but funds for agri lacking

The Union Budget Law for 2018-2019 which includes the government’s income and expenditure estimates has been approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.

Those estimates include K19.9 trillion and K24.7 trillion, respectively, for income and expenditure during the period, resulting in a fiscal deficit of K4777 billion, according to budget estimates released by the government.

The Ministry of Defence received the lion’s share of the budget, taking up a little over 13 percent, or K3.3 trillion (US$2.2 billion) of state funds. Still, that is less than what the government spent on defence in the past three fiscal years.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swenden-based research team for conflict, arms control and disarmament, Myanmar actually spends a smaller proportion of its budget on defence compared to other countries. For example, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam spent US$8 billion, $6.3 billion and $5 billion on defence in 2017, respectively.

Education and health

The government aims to spend around 9pc and 4.5pc of the 2018-19 budget on education and health, respectively, which is around the same amount it intends to spend on defense.

However, the funds allocated to both sectors are higher than previous years’, particularly for education.

While spending on health is lower compared to 2017-18, the funds allocated to the sector now takes up some 4pc of the budget compared to just 1pc in 2011-12.

Still, expenditure on education and health is lower in Myanmar than the other regional countries. According to the data of World Bank, Thailand uses 20pc of its budget for education and Vietnam allocates more than 18pc.

Myanmar is one of the countries with the lowest expenditure on health among the regional countries according to the World Health Organisation. In 2015, funds allocated to health in Myanmar are just slightly more than $59 per person compared to $217 in Thailand and $116 in Vietnam.

Agriculture and industry

Although 70pc of Myanmar’s population relies on income from agriculture, the government is planning to spend just 4pc of the budget on the sector in 2018-19. 

This is despite a drop in agriculture exports to just 20.8pc of total exports in 2017-18 compared to almost a third of total exports in 2011-12, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Meanwhile, although the country intends to expand into the industrial sector, spending by the Ministry of Industry on the sector has not exceeded 1pc of the budget over a six-year period, according to the budget estimates.