Burma's 'Resource Curse' Set to Get Worse, Says Watchdog
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Burma's 'Resource Curse' Set to Get Worse, Says Watchdog

By SAW YAN NAING/ THE IRRAWADDY Thursday, March 22, 2012

Daewoo clearing the pipeline route for the offshore gas terminal in Arakan State (Photo: Reuters)

With investment in Burma's energy sector set to increase dramatically in the coming years, there is a growing danger that corruption in the country will also worsen, according to a new report released by a watchdog group on Thursday.

The report, by Thailand-based Arakan Oil Watch, warns that a lack of laws and safeguards to ensure that export revenues are properly accounted for could exacerbate Burma's already severe problems with  corruption.

“In Burma, selling oil and gas is the country's largest source of income, so when there is no report on this, rampant corruption is very possible,” said Arakan Oil Watch's Jockai Khaing at a press conference to launch the new report.

Titled “Burma’s resource curse: The case for revenue transparency in the oil and gas sector,” the report said that the country's revenues are set to increase by 60 percent as new gas exports to China and Thailand begin as early as 2013. In addition, 41 oil and gas blocks are currently under exploration by various foreign companies, said the report.

According to official statistics, natural gas exports are the biggest foreign income earner for Burma, amounting to over US $2 billion in sales per year since 2006.

The Arakan Oil Watch report states that billions of dollars in revenues from the sale of natural gas have gone unrecorded in Burma’s public accounts and been siphoned off by corrupt military rulers, leaving Burma with some of the worst social indicators in the world and embroiled in conflicts over natural resources.

Earlier this month, the government's auditor general submitted a report to Parliament providing evidence of widespread corruption in six key ministries under the former junta. 

The six ministries—all of which were led by prominent members of the current administration—were accused of misusing billions of kyat in government funds and engaging in a variety of illegal transactions. 

The ministries singled out by the report were the Ministry of Information; the Ministry of Co-operatives; the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation; the Ministry of Mining; and the Ministries of Industry No (1) and No (2).

The Arakan Oil Watch report calls for the establishment of laws and institutions which will manage oil and gas revenues transparently before further extraction of natural resources by foreign investors. Laws that require impact assessments and the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities are also needed to ensure the protection of rights and the environment, said the report.

Despite recent moves by the new government to improve the budgetary process, detailed income and disbursement of oil and gas revenues remain undisclosed. The role of military enterprises in controlling gas revenues is also opaque, the watchdog group reported. 

According to his research in Arakan State, Jockai said that local residents in Arakan State complained that they didn’t benefit from resources produced in their region, while the Burmese government is earning billions of dollars from the gas trade in Arakan State.

Also, a separate statement released on Thursday by the Burma Environmental Working Group, an alliance of grassroots-based organizations, reported that local communities, especially women and children in those communities, have long paid the price for investment in Burma through forced labor, land confiscation, illegal taxes, loss of life and other human rights abuse—with very little and often ineffective outlets for raising grievances or obtaining redress for abuses.

It also said that the increasing investments since late 1980s, especially from resource-hungry Asian neighbors—including through the establishment of Special Economic Zones—has increased violent conflict, led to human rights abuses against local communities, threatened traditional livelihoods and ways of life, and caused irreparable environmental damage.

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Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
1. Bamar-asa-Tagaungga: Burma began at Tagaung. A prince of the Buddha family/line (500 years before) Buddha, lost struggle for the throne to his brother.That was in Kapilavastu (location disputed by India and Nepal)
2.Burmah is derived from Brahma, Hindu creator god.
3.In Chinese, Burma is called Mien Tien (Heavan's Gate)Settlers from Yunan, same ethnicity as Thai and Shan, pronounced Brahma Myranma, from which is derived Myanmar. Myanmar=Burmese as an adjective.
4.All centuries old indigenous settlers including Kayins (original settlers) are Burmese/Myanmars.GET IT?
5.Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England doesn't make England French.OK?
Stop your divide-and-rule suck up!
6.Yakhine was an original branch kingdom of the Tagaung.The other Therikestra or Thayaykistra, more correctly Srikistra.
7.Yakhine Burmese has 'r' sound because it kept 'Raja', meaning king as Raja. Bamars and the rest call it Yaza. J becomes z. History is 'yazawon' in Burmese.

Ohn Wrote:
tocharian said " It's better to be poor and free than become Chinese slaves!"

Not a single commentator or opinion piece writer has stated that in the euphoric "irrational exuberance" year.

All, the most cruel and arrogant military, the duped "opposition" and wise national and international interest groups are united as one to get Burma to what they supposed to be a like a Nevana, only this Nevana is more to be like Singapore ful of GREED and Vanity rather than happy, contented, harmonious lives.

And all are finding all inventive ways to sell out the country and destroy the current social system which has been there for millennium, destroy the morality of the people in exchange for KFC.

Sucking up the Rich Chinese and getting shoe factories was the reason hundreds of thousands of people have given their lives for in the last twenty years apparently.

tocharian Wrote:
Half of whose ancestors were Rakhaing, and so my moral and political sensitivities can say only one thing: Kick out the Chinese and all these foreign invaders raping the land of my ancestors! ! It's better to be poor and free than become Chinese slaves!

Rakhine thar Wrote:
Our Arakanese peoples have no guts to do rebellion. Do we?

Morton Wrote:
Corruption is an extremely shameful act. If Myanmar's political leaders really want true democracy (even be it called "Democracy in Myanmar Way")and truly care for the people, the first thing they should enforce is anti-corruption law.

Will the leaders there in Myanmar ever wake up to realize the importance of this issue? Or even if they wake up, will they have enough will, guts and vision to tackle this issue? Or will they be too weak to finally succumb to the dark forces? (Or will they remain ignorant thinking for their own good only?)

When the entire country and its people need to be enlightened, the country so much yearns for the emergence of altruistic leaders who will selflessly serve for the welfare of the entire people. May God bless Myanmar.

Dave Wrote:
"According to his research in Arakan State, Jockai said that local residents in Arakan State complained that they didn’t benefit from resources produced in their region, while the Burmese government is earning billions of dollars from the gas trade in Arakan State."
How many billion dollars has already earned from Gas trade in Arakan?

Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
Peoples of Arakan especially Kyaukpyu district resdents suffered quiet a lots. Their land are conficated no proper payment for land value. Creating protitution in various places in Kyaukpyu to please chinese master. Destroyed Arakanese customs and traditions and damaging environment and natural beauty of the landscape and small islands etc.

Up till now what Arakanese peoples get, so it is totally unfair. Nothing develop in Arakan, spoiling peoples mentality and livelihood, by force doing pipe line construction under forced labour; is it good or bad President Thein Sein has to decide on behalf of Arakanese peoples. At present does not have arms struggle yet, please do not push Arakanese peoples to make rebellion.

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