Myanmar Suu Kyi’s party set to challenge army-drafted charter: sources

Aung San Suu Kyi belongs to the ruling party National League for Democracy. (File/Reuters)
Updated 29 January 2019
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Myanmar Suu Kyi’s party set to challenge army-drafted charter: sources

  • The military retains a strong political role in Myanmar
  • The military also controls key security ministries, such as defense and home affairs, and owns sprawling business enterprises

NAYPYITAW: Myanmar’s ruling party was set on Tuesday to propose changes to the constitution, a lawmaker and a party source said, its biggest challenge in nearly three years to the military power enshrined in the charter.
The move could boost tension between the military, which retains a strong political role, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which have been at loggerheads over the charter since the party’s historic landslide win in 2015.
The surprise move comes as both civilian and military leaders, face growing international pressure over a brutal army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in 2017 that sent about 730,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
“They are going to submit the proposal today,” Ye Htut, an NLD upper house lawmaker for the northern region of Sagaing, told Reuters. “It is the election promise.”
At a short meeting with its MPs on Monday, the party’s central executive panel briefed them on the plans for Tuesday’s vote, said Ye Htut, who attended the gathering.
A second party source confirmed the amendment motion was to be presented at parliament’s Tuesday session.
Party spokesman Myo Nyunt declined to comment. Reuters was unable to seek comment from the parliamentary office.
The parliamentary agenda reviewed by Reuters does not show the proposal, but political analyst Yan Myo Thein said it was possible to submit a new one at the end of the session, with the speaker’s approval, or call an afternoon session to submit it.
It was not clear what provisions of the constitution the proposal would target or whether the NLD had secured the buy-in from the military necessary to pass such a measure.
The 2008 charter, drafted during the rule of the military junta, guarantees the army a quarter of parliamentary seats in the two houses. Constitutional changes require votes of more than 75 percent, giving the army an effective veto.
In the past, some members of Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi’s party have expressed their desire to amend Article 436 of the constitution, which lays out the rules.
The military also controls key security ministries, such as defense and home affairs, and owns sprawling business enterprises that control or affect broad swathes of the economy.
Another possible target may be a constitutional prohibition on presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children.
Suu Kyi had two sons with a British academic, so the measure effectively bars her from the office. But for nearly three years, she has ruled Myanmar from “above the president” by creating a powerful new position of State Counsellor.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.