The ‘Virtuous Circle’ of Carrot & Stick Sanctions
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Monday, July 15, 2024

The ‘Virtuous Circle’ of Carrot & Stick Sanctions

By WILLIAM BOOT / THE IRRAWADDY Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Have economic sanctions against Burma passed their sell-by date, or do they remain a key element in prodding the Burmese government down the road of reform?

Opinion is as divided among many leading Burma watchers as it is among the Western politicians who must ultimately decide on the fate of the sanctions, with some arguing for an immediate end and others believing the restrictions must remain in place until more positive and permanent reform happens.

A third line of opinion is that the sanctions could be gradually withdrawn bit by bit if reforms continue.

One of the most high-profile voices urging a rapid end to the sanctions, American economist and Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, has described them as an “impediment” to Burma’s emergence from decades of isolation.

Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has described sanctions as an “impediment” to Burma’s emergence from decades of isolation.
Stiglitz praises what he sees as “unprecedented transparency” in recent financial decision making coupled with an easing of restrictions in key areas.

That’s not the view of more than 60 members of the British Parliament who, while praising the Thein Sein initiatives, argue that no reforms have yet been enshrined in law. They are seeking to commit the British government to block any attempt by the European Union to ease the sanctions after Burma’s April 1 elections.

A parliamentary motion to that end signed by British legislators from across the political spectrum “notes with concern that hundreds of political prisoners remain in Burma's jails, and that there has been an increase in human rights abuses in ethnic states.”

The 62 legislators who have so far signed the motion said: “International pressure has played an important role in encouraging reforms so far, and [we call] on the government to ensure that EU sanctions on Burma are not relaxed prematurely before substantially more political prisoners are released, conflict is ended and there is an inclusive dialogue process to secure further and irreversible reform.”

The editor of the Burma Economics Watch, Sean Turnell, is in favor of the carrot-and-stick approach— reducing sanctions gradually in return for more reform. The primary purpose of the sanctions imposed by the United States, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Canada was to induce change, argues the economist from Australia’s Macquarie University.

“This I think they have done, primarily by creating incentives for all but the most rusted-on supporters and ideologues of the old military regime to embrace change,” Turnell told The Irrawaddy this week after a visit to Burma to assess the effect of the Thein Sein reforms.

“Consistent with such purposes then, sanctions easing in response to meaningful reforms in Burma have always been the promise. Such reforms are as yet partial, as I suspect then are the likely modifications to the various sanctions regimes. Of importance at the moment is the direction of change and its momentum, in terms of reforms and, as a consequence of these, changes to sanctions.”

The US special envoy to Burma, Derek Mitchell, appears to be in the same camp as Turnell, and it’s his views which are most likely to influence White House thinking and calls for US Congress action to roll back the most draconian of sanctions.

Mitchell said the Washington government is looking at which sanctions might be getting in the way of reform, but he has warned that there is no one change in Burma that will magically lead to the lifting of all sanctions.

“The conditions for sanctions and other restrictions are more than these [April] elections,” he said after his latest visit to Burma. “There are specific issues that have to do with the release of all political prisoners, have to do with ethnic minority issues and have to do with other issues.

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Wolfgang , Hong Kong Wrote:
I much agree with SuuMaung & Nyi Nyi , sanctions have been an important catalyst for change ,contrary to all the business driven hype coming from Stiglitz & the like .Burma still has a long way to go on the steep uphill path to lasting reform , specially in view of the total lack of control over the Tatmadaw & it's unabated brutal warfare in Kachin & Shan State , as well as plenty of atrocities still inflicted on the ethnic people in Karen & Chin State .
I much appreciate the well - balanced policies coming so far out of the US [ TKX DEREK MITCHELL !] & the UK Parliament , much in contrast with the hasty eagerness in the direction of lifting sanctions we can see from other EU members , specially GERMANY with it's largely business-driven foreign policy !

Nyunt Han Wrote:
@ Nyi Nyi

Exactly !

SuuMaung Wrote:
A third line of opinion is that the sanctions could be gradually withdrawn bit by bit if reforms continue. Yes, I would agree on this.
The US & EU need to be very careful before they lift the sanctions. If they lift all the sanctions right away, who would benefit, not our country or our people. Only those junta & their cronies will take advantage of this right away. Since SLORC took over, 1988, our country became more & more in debt & poverty. But those generals & their Cronies like TayZa, ZawZaw, HtunMyintNaing, KhinShwe, AungThetMann, etc & few more Billionaires are getting richer & richer from our country’s resources. Now only they will benefit from lifting the Sanctions right away. I hope the US & EU should consider seriously before they lift all the sanctions.

tocharian Wrote:
Peking definitely loves sanctions!
Sure, I'm also all for sanctions against undemocratic and repressive regimes, so why doesn't the US (and the West) just "sanction" China to get a "regime change" there? Is China's human rights record over the last 60 years better than that of Burma? What about Tibet and Sinkiang? (China wouldn't even allow them to have their own "ethnic armies" like the UWSA in Burma lol).
There is a lot of hypocrisy going on, on all sides. Politics is a game of "Liar's Poker" played by the top 0.1% on the back of the 99.9% of the people that has to suffer, sanctions or no sanctions.

Nyi Nyi Wrote:
Sanctions have proven to work. Without the sanctions we would not have seen the reforms that are taking place in Burma. Why change something which has a proven track record? There has to be a good reason for change and it is right that the gradual reforms are met with gradual relaxation of restrictions. Disciplined democracy with disciplined sanction!

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