Sunday, September 30, 2007

Business in Burma and Predictions of Western Lackeys at Home

An interesting article was published in groundviews.org titled doing business with Myanmar http://www.groundviews.org/2007/08/31/doing-business-with-myanmar. In that article, the writer mentions that Sri Lanka has made an error in doing business with Myanmar/Burma. "The vice chairman of the CCC is reported to have addressed the visitors with the words, 'This is an opportunity to extend our friendship for a fruitful partnership'. The writer says he "wondered if those attending realized who they were befriending, and the possible consequences of this attempted friendship".

The article goes on to claim that Sri Lanka has been 'opportunistic' in seeking business partnerships with Myanmar and that we should guard ourselves against this because 'The West is Watching'. The writer further claims that western governments are "frustrated by opportunistic Asian countries that continue to coddle the Junta, and that Sri Lanka has been scurrying to join that opportunistic bandwagon."

The writer is full of fear that the business deal with the Junta would invoke the wreath of the Western Powers by "getting in to bed with Myanmar’s Junta". He says that "in the US Congress..one mention on the congressional floor of our “friendship and fruitful partnership” could well destroy the hard earned and much deserved chances of the Apparel sector."

This is a pathetic analysis, to say the least. It is true that the United States has enforced economic sanctions on Myanmar, including a ban on the importation of Burmese products to the US and a ban on US persons providing financial services to Burma. However, there's another side to this story. International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the IMF and ADB have continued to invest in Myanmar. They have not heeded warnings by Human Rights organizations against investing in Myanmar. There is a simple explanation to this. Firstly, IFIs are profit motivated. Secondly, Myanmar
is a natural resource rich nation. These natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, and hydropower.

The other important issue is that International Financial Institutions are operated, funded and staffed by the same powerful western states that are campaigning for Human Rights in Myanmar and have imposed economic sanctions on it to appear politically correct, whilst indirectly profiting from the same Chaos. But perhaps the most unfortunate situation of all is to find Sri Lankan Pundits trying to be lackeys of the West by quickly ringing alarm-bells as soon as Sri Lanka, who has not had the best of luck recently in terms of economics, tries to enter into legitimate business deals with Myanmar!

13 comments:

theSnitch said...

The downside to a Governmental collapse in Myanmar today, and a sudden rush to democracies (like rush to political solutions in Sri Lanka) will spell disaster to the country, with the whole plethora of NGOs, INGOs and any other self proclaimed do-gooders arriving in the country and seeding dissent and disunity amongst the people.

Christian NGOs will be the first on the scene (some might be there already??) and get to work immediately, taking advantage of the poor people of Myanmar, making them sell there souls for a buck.

A sudden change in Government, will leave the new Government weak, exposed and worrisome of its position with also new factions representing different ideologies and groups (along with some Western lackeys like the one mentioned in this article, funded by NGOs quickly infesting the country) wanting a say. The new Government desperate for friends will fall right into the open hands of the sudden friendly "pro-democracy", "human rights" and "interest in improving the lives of the people" West.

The country's resources can then easily be sold off with only the West and certain individuals within the nation becoming the primary benefactors, while the poor, destitute and deprived masses will continue to suffer. The Western Media, who today are championing the Myanmar cause, will quickly fall silent and let hell break loose.

I worry for Myanmar; it has no hope, especially if it relies on external powers and interference to save it. Only way for all of Myanmar and its people to come out of this is if they, somehow, work together with the Military Government for a slow, transition of power. This can be achieved by key, patriotic members of the Military who understand the needs of the people, taking control of all important levels of Government away from the corrupt and the worthless. They should not be afraid to do this, as the people would be with them.

As for this article (which I should have responded first, sorry!) just brilliant. A perfect snap shot of the problems with our society, where the interest of someone else is put first ahead of our own. We did that before in 1987, with you know who, and look where we are now.

Castedeus said...

You do however assume that "patriotic members of the Military who understand the needs of the people" and are capable of wresting power from corrupt officials exist within the set up and have an opportunity. The past 17 years have shown few signs for such optimism, despite elections in 1990. Idealism aside, I see little hope for such change in Myanmar, along the lines that you prescribe.. but that's just my view of course.

Anonymous said...

Well said thesnitch..

But it is time for the democracy to prevail in Burma...

Burmese junta must free the political activits without any delay...

TheSnitch said...

Castedeus i know what you mean.

But for all of Myanmar to come out victorious it needs change to be 100% internally driven and slow.

Slow change is always the best.

Even though circumstances are different, have a look at Sri Lanka, 1815 change was quick (not the best example for the point i'm making, but that sudden swap shot the people of this Island all to hell, which we're still recovering from).

1956 Political Change; had "Sinhalisation" been done over say a period of 5 to 10 years (not 24 fraking hours) then transition would have been easy.

Of course claims that 1956 was the driving force behind the desire for "Federalism" is flawed, as Tamil politicians wanted such a set up of Federal/Independent state long before 1956.
1956 was to get rid of English more than anything else; the whole concept was good just the execution was bad and stupid. 1956 gave a good dose of fuel to Tamil politicians at the time (especially SJV Chelvanayakam) to fulfil their own power hunger.

1974 Economy change, again had this been done slowly, Sri Lanka's domestic industries wouldn't have collapsed and we wouldn't be having a foreign aid dependant/non self sufficient economy as we do now. The Open Economy killed our local industries over night.
Once more the concept was good, the execution was bad


Castedeus I hope you read my new comment to you in the previous article.

Castedeus said...

Yes Snitch, I read your comment on the previous post here - thanks. And yes I take your point on the perils of rapid change.

Let me also add the following quote as my two cents to the federal issue:

"A thousand and one objections could be raised against the systems but when the objections are dissipated I am convinced that some form of federal government would be the only solution." - S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike on the Kandyan/Low Country/Tamil divide. (quoted in Nira Wickremasinghe, 1995: 69).

FactCheck said...

The writer may need to check his facts. For instance, contrary to what is stated, the World Bank has not approved any new lending to Myanmar since about 1987. See link below:

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/EASTASIAPACIFICEXT/MYANMAREXTN/0,,menuPK:332674~pagePK:141159~piPK:141110~theSitePK:332668,00.html

defenceAnalyst said...

factcheck
IMF is obtaining netcharges from investments in Myanmar with the latest payment due in November. ADB is engaged in indirect support through different other forums like the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program (GMS Program), as well as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).Please read http://www.soros.org/initiatives/bpsai/articles_publications/publications/opportunitiespitfalls_20061115/opportunities_20061115.pdf

FactCheck said...

dear defenseAnalyst,

The following is a link to a transcript by the Governor of the Bank of Myanmar (Burma). In page 3 paragraph 3 he confirms that BOTH the World Bank and IMF have "suspended financial assistance to Myanmar since 1987".

http://www.imf.org/external/am/2005/speeches/pr09e.pdf

That the IMF and World Bank are both demanding repayment of past loans (and thereby 'earning' from Burma) is hardly a sign of complicity. It is a way of putting further financial pressure on the Burmese junta.

The article link you cite in the comment above says that the ADB has suspended "direct" assistance to Burma, while it has failed to prevent "indirect" assistance. There are two ways to respond to this fact. Should the ADB be applauded for the half effort or blamed for not doing more: is the glass half full or half empty?

But more troublesome on the factual front is that your article seems to claim that the ADB is "funded and staffed by the same powerful western states". I think you will find this to be incorrect. The ADB is an Asian led institution.

http://www.adb.org/About/members.asp

65% of ADB voting shares are held by Asian countries, and Japan and the US jointly have the highest individual shares (12% each).

When the facts are corrected then, your article could be making the same point as the article that you are objecting to: that western countries and institutions have taken effective measures to financially isolate the junta of Burma, while Asian countries and Institutions have either failed to do so, or done the opposite.

defenceAnalyst said...

factcheck,
Correct but here's the part you missed. My report discusses investment and not direct assistance. These investments have stopped YET the Return on Investment (RoI) is still the requirement. The IFIs are therefore 'helping' Burma in 'managing' its economy. Why? Well you can fill in the rest. Your information is what everyone else has, but the reality is much different. Example, read the US Government policy on Burma, which says no investments by its companies in Burma and THEN read check if this is true. For example the Burmese Lawyers Council says

"Unocal from the United States, for example, built the Yadana offshore gas pipeline to Thailand. This is now among the junta’s most profitable business operations. The American sanctions barred companies from setting up new business deals, but Unocal was allowed to remain. Although there is astounding evidence that forced labour was used to construct the pipeline, Unocal still denies all of it. Some companies investing in Burma, such as Halliburton, say they “have nothing to do with the government. We just go where the oil is”.1 Other companies, such as IHC Caland, simply say they are “not interested in politics, only in business”.2 However, politics and business always go together in Burma. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has criticized the British government’s call for companies to pull out of Burma because of the junta’s bad human rights record."

For more information read how the Foreign Investment Law in Burma is being twisted and turned to attract foreign investment http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs/LIO

defenceAnalyst said...

factcheck,
ADB has 67 member countries. 48 are from Asia and 19 from Western Countries. These countries hold 35% voting power.About the ADB being 'held' by Asian countries, you yourself contradict your statement by claiming that USA holds the highest percentage of shares with Japan. Well, can you tell me why USA should hold (jointly maybe) high shares in a bank that's called THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK? Are you aware of the relationship between USA and Japan? If I were to say US can manipulate Japan, Philippines, Pakistan, South Korea etc etc would you agree? Have you met ADB top officials? Where do you think majority of them come from?

defenceAnalyst said...

factcheck,
Can you also tell me why you have decided to defend western interests in a Sri Lankan, and essentially a 'Global South' blog?

FactCheck said...

dear defenceAnalyst,

I probably share at least some of your views: that western governments and corporations often employ double standards, are generally self-serving and are frequently hypocritical.

I am however not of the view that the above situation should cause us to falsely deny the very similar proclivities of Asian states, including Sri Lanka -- amply demonstrated in the case of Burma. Neither am I of the view that it should prevent us from giving due recognition to actions of western states that are sometimes quite worthy of praise.

Isn't it better, to the best of our abilities, to be fair and truthful across the board, rather than consciously select and misrepresent facts in a way that blindly supports the south? Isn't a 'southern lackey' as untrustworthy a species as a 'western lackey'?

Even though I thought your article and comments lacked those qualities of evenhandedness, I feel your intentions are honest and that you will agree with me about the need to be fair and truthful.

I think there is no need to add anything further to what I have said, and will end my contributions to this article with this comment. I appreciated your responses and want to thank you for caring enough to have engaged in this discussion.

defenceAnalyst said...

I think both types of lackeys are dangerous. I am not afraid to call such lackeys lackeys. But doing so doesn't make me a lackey, neither does my articles. If you care to analyse them carefully, you will discover that they have given credit to western thinking where it deserves such credit. What taunts me is to find Sri Lankans criticizing Sri Lanka for engaging in legal business deals when IFIs have large RoIs and western businesses profit from Burma. I am specially taunted to find Sri Lankans being told to be afraid of the Western gaze cos in the eyes of the west, its wrong for Sri Lanka to do business with Burma. This is hypocritic!

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