Rogue Generals, Sanctions ‘Spaghetti’ and Big Debts Daunt Reformers
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Rogue Generals, Sanctions ‘Spaghetti’ and Big Debts Daunt Reformers

By WILLIAM BOOT / THE IRRAWADDY Monday, February 20, 2012

Roadside vendors sell food in Rangoon, Burma's commercial capital. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)
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In its attempts to produce a transparent national budget, the parliament is discovering that inadequate official accounting and the confusion of multiple exchange rates make this a difficult, if not impossible, task.”

Another business specialist who has just visited Burma to assess the economic situation said, “Burma lacks even the most basic tools for gathering economic and social data, which makes reform harder.”

“There is a severe shortage of intellectual horsepower in the government,” business book author Phillip Delves Broughton wrote in a report for the Royal Institute of International Affairs think tank in London.

“When officials from the World Bank visited recently and started talking about inflation targeting and controlling M2, the generals nodded but conceded privately afterwards that they hadn’t a clue what was being said.”

“Even the most basic credit system would have a dramatic effect on Burmese growth,” he wrote.

Delves Broughton wrote “The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters about the Business of Life” based on his time at Harvard Business School.  His mother was born in Burma but fled the military takeover.

An issue facing the reformers if they prevail, says Delves Broughton, is deciding which national model to copy from among the nine other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ranging from the messy democracies of Indonesia and the Philippines to the strict orderliness of Singapore.

Given the Burmese weariness and wariness of military uniforms, they surely wouldn’t want to follow their neighbor Thailand’s democracy model, peppered with 18 military coups and 17 constitutions since 1932.

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Bill Gov Wrote:
Dear Myanmar Patriots,

What on earth have made you guys changed the tone of your previous comments?

Quick economic growth does not come in the blink of an eye. No free lunch. Everything comes with a price and the price in this case is honesty.

There is no dilemma here except for good governance with honesty.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Return On Capital Employed and profit and capital repartriation are the criteria. Corruption is everywhere, even in the West.Big companies carry suitcases full of dollars to Arabic despostic states.Nothing new.There are always dilemas.
Investment is important for ordinary people; the multiplier effect is much needed in Burma now for a fairly quick economic growth.Investment in education and training must not wait. Without the necessary skills, there can be no sustainable growth. Get the economy airborne!
Parliament can do little, other than blowing hot air.One-eyed is king amongst the blind.
Burma is in dire need of workable strategy.

Bill Gov Wrote:
Dear Myanmar Patriots,

Fat Hope. No honesty no investment money.

Return all the land to the farmers in Mingaladon first then let's see about it.

That's for sure. Dream on!

Maung Maung Kyaw Wrote:
Lifting of US Sanctions?
Dream on.. Dream on...

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
We will endeavour to persuade the big guys to invest in Burma, rest assured.

Correcting systemic corruption is a matter of legislation. Out leader can provide legal construction for the reforms.

Everyone wants fairness. No point in hanging on to corrupt system even for the vested interests. ShuMaung's family could not keep the loots. So what make anyone think that those who had the snout in the trough can keep their bounties?

Refoirms will continue.

Jeremy Wrote:
One of the interesting things here is that the U.S. Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has had a great interest in Myanmar, and has visited lately. If he is happy with the state of progress and the elections are free and fair, he would actually move quickly to undo the sanctions, and lead the Republicans in the U.S. Senate to do so, and Obama would likely agree. My suspicion is that the entire web of sanctions will be removed very quickly if the elections are free. Literally within days.

Bill Gov Wrote:
"Genius" or "Genuine" reform depends on the present Burmese government honesty. No big guy will throw in money to invest without knowing that there will "genuine" or "genius" investment law, rule of law and genuine stability in the Kyats. No fat hope.

Clo Htoo Wrote:
Hopefully,Myanmar government honestly disclose all the mess done by previous junta to World Bank and IMF team.If not these guys will have really hard time to work and sort mess out.All the big guys who want to invest in Myanmar are waiting what WB and IMF gonna say.It is also litmus test if the reform is genius or just superficial. Let's wait and see...

Hein Wrote:
Didn’t Asia Society also called for lifting of economic sanctions? I guess it wouldn’t be the first time Irrawaddy left out a piece of information.

But anyway, this is exactly what I’ve feared regarding US sanctions on Burma. Everyone who follows American politics is aware of the snail speed of Washington. On top of that, after decades of sour relations, US has put overlapping sanctions by passing intricate legislations on Burma that it would take years to undo.

Asia Society also made a good point, which certain Burma observers do not get, that the economic sanctions are actually hurting the ordinary Burmese people while entrenching the business elite who are most likely intertwined with hardliners in the government.

I sincerely hope that Burma continues on the path of reforms and achieves genuine democracy but if it does, it won’t be because of Washington but rather in spite of it.

Moe Aung Wrote:
“There is a severe shortage of intellectual horsepower in the government,”

You can say that again. And it won't be rectified any time soon since the regime has a limited ruling class interest and only a selective intellectual input to serve the purpose remains acceptable. Their requirement is not complicated.

Bill Gov Wrote:
Dear Mr Derek Tonkin, please do not be naive.
Those who have vested interests in keeping to their corrupt practices have already put in place systems that will enable them to continue with their corrupt practices. These same rogue generals are in control of every corner of parliament and government and the financial systems. There is an old saying in the country - To be clean of corruption, the whole government has to be cleaned out from the start and this might take at least a whole or 2 generations if not decades to do so. A leopard can not change its spot and the same military people are still in control threatening any kind of reforms.

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