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Burma (Budget Deficit)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma what proportion of the £12,000,000 contributed by the British Government towards the deficit in Burma's 1946–47 budget is absorbed in the payment of salaries; and what proportion of the £18,375,000 to wards the current year's fiscal rehabilitation projects is being spent on repairing the destruction of British assets wrecked by orders in the denial of their use by the Japanese invaders.

Both contributions are being made as general advances towards meeting Burma's budget deficit and the rehabilitation of her economy for the financial year October, 1946, to September, 1947. While I regret that the precise information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available, I would inform the hon. Member that the estimated total expenditure is approximately £33 million, of which approximately £12.5 million is in respect of salaries (exclusive of those for the Frontier Areas) and the estimated revenue is approximately £20 million. As regards the second part of the Question the actual proportion of His Majesty's Government's contribution to the projects to be expended on restoring British-owned assets destroyed by denial measures is not ascertainable, as assets so destroyed have not been dealt with separately from those destroyed by other war operations, and in many cases the assets will be replaced in a different form.

Is it compatible with the declaration of complete independence for the new Burmese Government that the British taxpayer should pay the whole cost of the salaries of this administration, and would it not be fair that British nationals whose businesses have suffered enormous losses should have some sort of guarantee as to what proportion, if any, will be recouped to them out of this heavy expenditure of £33 million, again at the expense of the British taxpayer?

As regards the second part of the question, I am not able to give the precise information for which the hon. Gentleman asks, because in the nature of things it is not possible to separate one item from another. As regards the first part of the supplementary question, he will appreciate that the engagements which the Government have entered into with regard to the Government of Burma cover the financial year ending September this year. The effect of any constitutional change of the nature to which he has referred upon existing engagements is, of course, an entirely different question.

Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will supply a Command Paper or some other information from which we shall be able to see exactly how this gift—for that is what it really is—has been spent?

I do not think there is any secret as to the way in which the money has been spent. The difficulty is in breaking down the amounts advanced to cover the deficit as regards the items of expenditure by the Burmese Government during the current financial year. I am quite sure we will do our best to supply any information which the noble Lord or any other hon. Member desires.