Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

RESPONDING TO STRATEGIES AND PROGRAMMES OF MYANMAR'S MILITARY REGIME: An Economic Viewpoint

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

RESPONDING TO STRATEGIES AND PROGRAMMES OF MYANMAR'S MILITARY REGIME: An Economic Viewpoint

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Myanmar military regime's harsh crackdown on popular demonstrations in September 2007 has generated intense international condemnation as well as other responses. Most of the criticisms and policy proposals offered in these responses, however, have focused upon political reform. Relatively little in the ways of proposals or even concern has dealt with economic reform, the lack of which was the main grievance of the demonstrations and protests. This article seeks to shed light on the roots of the current economic crisis while also analysing a number of measures taken by the post-1988 military regimes in order to find ways to remedy their difficult and indeed perennial economic problems. It will assess the rationale behind these varying measures and their impacts upon Myanmar citizens, the economy, and the regime's survival and future prospects. The article emphasizes the need for simultaneously devising new strategies to put pressure upon the Myanmar military regime to undertake economic reforms that not only address inefficiencies and mismanagements, but most particularly resonant with the needs of the majority of the population in Myanmar.

Aftermath of the September Demonstrations

The Myanmar Government came under intense international pressure when it severely repressed, in September 2007, the public protests and demonstrations organized in response to the raising of subsidized fuel prices. The majority of international demands that followed in the wake of this repression, however, have been aimed at political rather than economic reforms. Most prominent among these have been calls for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and an insistence upon opening dialogues among various ethnic opposition parties, the NLD (National League for Democracy), and the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council). Neither the government nor any of the international groups or actors, however, has managed to come up with concrete, workable, or sustainable plans to solve the economic crisis in ways that could or would address the needs of the country's various impoverished communities. Instead, the Myanmar government puts the blame on Western economic sanctions for the nation's economic woes. In fact, it expelled Charles Petrie, the head of the United Nations Development Programme in Myanmar and the UN's resident coordinator, for releasing a UN Country Team's statement on 24 October, which deplored the government's lack of attention to the growing humanitarian crisis.

There have been some international actions taken on the economic front, but these are either in the forms of tightening existing economic sanctions and withdrawing financial assistance, or ad hoc emergency responses to the humanitarian crisis. The assumption behind these punitive economic measures is that positive political developments are necessary for economic change, and therefore the Myanmar military regime must be required to implement some measures of democratic reform before sanctions are lifted and foreign aid and investment can return.

This by no means should be interpreted as saying that nothing has been done or proposed to address the urgent humanitarian crisis. The British government has recently announced its intention to increase its cross-border aid to internally displaced peoples and its support for pro-democracy and human rights projects. The French foreign minister suggested the creation of a trust fund, which will be administered by non-government organizations (NGOs) to help ordinary people set up businesses.1 UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari has proposed the establishment of a broad-based Poverty Alleviation Commission (rejected by the SPDC), and the IMF, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank reports on Myanmar have routinely provided an annual laundry list of "market-oriented" measures, as is their wont, that they believe should be instituted. The IMF's latest report in 2007 in fact recommended targeted subsidies to improve living standards. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.