Three more ministries hold press conferences on first 100-day work performance

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Nay Pyi Taw, August 19

The third press conference on the new government’s work performance for its first 100 days was held at the Ministry of Information yesterday with the three ministries giving press briefing and answering media questions.

Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung Win said that the ministry carried out seven work programmes that include revising company registration fees, conducting training courses on planning, finance and investment in regions and states, preparing for the sale of K500 lottery tickets, spending 5 per cent commercial tax on prepaid phone cards for the education sector and the launch of the Myanmar Automated Cargo Clearance System-MACCS at ports and airport in Yangon, developing measures for swift clearance at ports and airport.

Permanent Secretary Dr Daw Nanda Hmun of the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs explained that the ministry conducted nine works that include major repair of Visakha prayer hall and dredging of Dagon Thiri Lake, raising assistance to teachers of monastic education schools, settlement of land dispute at Myaing Gyi Ngu, interfaith activities, coordination with Sanga organisations at various levels and the region/state governments to promote Sasana, upgrading six monastic schools into high schools and supervision of boards of trustees of Pagodas. 

Regarding policy implementation of the Fine Arts Department, a paper-reading session was held in May and a book on Myanmar string instruments was published and has gone on sale.

Moreover, the department organised a stage drama and dances at National Theatres in Yangon and Mandalay in June and July, submitted a nomination for the Bayintnaung Bell to be inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, set up a World Heritage Site Logo at the Mya Zedi (Razakumara) Stone Inscription and carried out the upgrading of the General Aung San Museum in Yangon.

Deputy Permanent Secretary U Thet Naing Oo of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation also elaborated on 28 works related to agriculture and irrigation sector, livestock and fishery sector and rural development.

He said that the ministry lent about K3.5 billion to 489 farmers for the purchase of farming and fishing equipment and about 18.2 billion to members of agriculture and livestock cooperative societies for the purchasing of agricultural products.

The ministry provided clean water to 584 villages by digging 602 wells, he added. The ministry also performed educative campaigns to disseminate knowledge of the measures used against the impact of excess heat and flooding in regions and states.

Director-General U Win Htain and Deputy Permanent Secretary U Win Zaw of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation said that the ministry is developing a new Forestry Law.

The ministry completed drafting a National Climate Change Strategy and work programmes with the help of the UNEP and UN–Habitat and the suggestions of ministries concerned and CSOs.

The ministry also developed Sectoral EIA Guidelines for the natural gas and oil sector and hydropower sector in cooperation with international organisations. Representatives from the respective ministries responded to queries raised by journalists.

In connection with the budget surplus, Planning and Finance Deputy Minister U Maung Maung Win responded that budgeting involves estimating the upcoming revenues and expenditures. Not all estimates are precise, the deputy minister said, adding that some foreign loans were not received as had been expected.

Director General U Min Htut of the Internal Revenue Department explained the price gap of lottery tickets between the government and the wholesalers and retailers, describing the price difference unavoidable in the practice of the open market system. The official price for a ticket is K200, meaning that the resellers will make a profit of K200 every sale of an 11-ticket pack, which the director general said was too small for a living. In a bid to control the price differences, the government has decided to raise the current price to K500 per ticket, with the official hinting at a series of possible price rises up to K2,000.

“This will prevent the price differences from widening.” He said, adding that plans were under way to introduce e-lottery. Regarding the use of K7.5 billion generated from telecommunications taxes in health besides education, the director general of the Budget Department responded that the budget for education received K1,631 b up from K381 b in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The health sector received 4.1% of the total budget of this fiscal year with the official saying that the Ministry of the Office of State Counsellor and the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs received the smallest budget while the Ministry of Electricity and Energy received the biggest amount, 24.5% of the whole budget.

In response to a query regarding the growing numbers of companies, the deputy director of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration said the change of registration fees saw the rise in the number of companies from 500 per month in the past to over 1,000 per month at present.

In connection with the economic policy and the inflation situation, Deputy Minister U Maung Maung Win said the economic policy would determine the path the incumbent government would take in its tenure. The deputy minister described inflation as a normal process in the time of trade deficit, promising to control the inflation by the ministry in cooperation with the Central Bank of Myanmar.

In queries regarding the emerald green project, an official of the rural department said the project gave out a loan of K30m to each of 7,723 villages because 75% of rural people require capital.

In response to the alleged suspension of river water-pumping projects, an official of the Irrigation Department said these projects were financially going bad but they were intended for rural farmers to have easy access to irrigation necessary for their farming.

However, the official confirmed the termination of 170 small-scale river water-pumping projects, saying that the country has a total of 3,793 irrigation projects.

Regarding the US$700m loans from China Exim Bank, an official of the Cooperative Department responded that the loans drawn from the Chinese bank at an interest rate of 4.5 per cent were given out to rural farmers at 18 per cent interest. He added that despite the $700m agreement, only $400m had been taken from the Chinese bank. “The amount is sufficient enough to help the rural farmers, so we don’t need to take another $300m.”

The Department of Agriculture explained its plans to provide reserve grains to farmers whose farms were inundated in the floods in Ayeyawady and Bago regions.

Deputy Director General U Aye Ko Ko said they had 130,000 baskets of paddy grains in reserve, plus 480,000 baskets in the hands of rice merchants.

In connection with the reorganisation of trustees boards at famous pagodas, the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs responded that five trustees of the 13-member board at Shwedagon Pagoda were allowed to retire. According to an official of the ministry, the vacancies had been filled.

In relation to the land dispute in Myaing Gyi Ngu, the official said the union minister and the local chief minister negotiated with Christian leaders. The negotiations were successful. He said his ministry would uphold and promote interfaith cooperation. Regarding the illegal construction of hotels and accommodations, the official said the construction of hotels in Bagan, which is now regarded as World Heritage Site, requires permission from the ministry. The construction of 25 hotels was found to be completed, he said, adding that the ministry would act in line with the law but consider the interests of the business people.

When asked about the financial support to monastic schools, he promised the increased financial supports to teachers at monastic schools depending on the mandate of the 2017-2018 budget allotment. In connection with the Myitsone dam project, the Forest Department responded that the government had set up an investigation committee to look for an appropriate solution to the issue. The voices of the local residents, the people and the environmental impact should be taken into consideration in decision making, he added, calling for patience until the committee comes up with its findings.

As regards the landslide in Hpakant, the permanent secretary said no new mining blocks were permitted in the area, with no extension for the existing blocks. For the moment, 11 inspection teams have been assigned to supervise the damping, and severe action will be taken against violators. More than 2,000 mining blocks are in operation in Hpakant.

In response to illegal logging, an official replied that most illegal timber was exported to China while India officially bought timber the most.

In connection with the issues of jade scavengers in Hpakant, the official said it was too big a problem to be handled by a single ministry. He stressed the need for cooperation among ministries and local authorities in creating more job opportunities for local residents.