Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has questioned a move by parliament to assign funds to local townships for development projects, arguing the plan is unconstitutional, a ruling party lawmaker said Friday.
Thein Sein sent a formal complaint letter to parliament after lawmakers last week announced plans for a development fund that would give each of the country’s 330 townships 100 million kyat (about U.S. $102,000) per year to improve their communities.
Lawmakers had said that under the plan, townships will be allowed to used the funds for health and education, improving electricity and drinking water supply, building roads and bridges, or other development projects.
In his letter, Thein Sein warned lawmakers that the allocation of development funds is not their decision to make, Lower House Bill Committee Chairman Ti Khun Myat told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“The President said that this is the job of the administration, not the job of parliament,” whose duty is to pass legislation, said Ti Khun Myat, who is from Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
“The letter was as if he were warning parliament to be careful about doing this kind of work because [we] could receive complaints that it is not in line with the constitution.”
Thein Sein’s letter had laid out specific points arguing the plan was unconstitutional, but lawmakers have resisted the criticism and believe their programs will benefit local people, he said.
“As we see it, we didn’t go against the constitution to do this.”
“We are doing this to carry out the development projects that the people really need, such as getting drinking water and building roads in villages,” he said.
The Irrawaddy journal reported last month that parliament’s plan to fund local development projects had come from USDP chairman and Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann, who is eyeing a bid for the presidency in 2015.
The plan involves taking the funds out of the government budget and had been approved in a parliamentary meeting in April though it did not come to light until last month, it said.
Shwe Mann had brought to the Lower House floor a plan to establish a separate fund for lawmakers to spend on local development in their constituencies after he visited India in December 2011, it said.
Reported by Thin Thiri for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.