Daily News- December 01 - 2001- Saturday

  • Economic report on Burma paints dismal picture
  • Burma's Exports May Be 1 Million Tons--Four Times Last Year
  • Daw Aung San Suu Kyi -"With Quiet Force and Strength of Will"

  • Economic report on Burma paints dismal picture

    By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok
    Financial Times

    A rare report on Burma has painted a dismal picture of a primitive economy in which the cash-strapped military junta is unable to provide essential services and infrastructure.

    The Asian Development Bank's analysis of Burma's economy argues that wide-ranging reforms are needed to improve growth prospects and lift the country's population out of poverty.

    "There is a pressing need to increase the flow of public resources to basic health and education services and other areas where developmental needs are not being met," said the report, highlights of which are due to be released next week.

    The ADB also warned that the junta's policy of financing its annual 5-6 per cent budget deficits by expanding central bank credit was "unsustainable" and was jeopardising long-term growth prospects.

    Burma's annual inflation rate for the past five years had averaged 27.2 per cent, which had sharply eroded the value of household savings and encouraged the growing use of US dollars in everyday transactions, the ADB said.For all its restraint, the ADB report offered insight into the economic mismanagement, instability and stagnation under the recent years of military rule and hinted at the hurdles that lay ahead if the country was ever to tap into its much-touted economic potential.

    It comes at a time when the international community appears to be rethinking its position on economic sanctions on Burma, amid nascent talks between the junta and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end their decade-long political stalemate.

    For all the high-rise development in Rangoon in recent years, Burma still remains heavily dependent on farming and forestry, which accounts for 60 per cent of its GDP, while manufacturing contributes just 7 per cent. Between 1995 and 2000, investment in industry was just $478m, or 17.3 per cent of total investment.

    Infrastructure is also primitive. Just 15 per cent of the population has access to electricity, while only one in 200 people has a telephone, with most rural areas lacking even a single telephone link to the outside world.

    As agriculture is largely exempt from direct taxation, Burma has one of the lowest ratios of tax to GDP in the world. The money that is collected is largely squandered on subsidising loss-making and inefficient state enterprises, many of which are run by the military.

    Nearly 75 per cent of total government spending goes towards state enterprises, mostly for employees' salaries and operating costs. Only 6 per cent of the total spending on state enterprises is funnelled into capital investment.

    Public spending on health care, by contrast, is just 0.17 per cent of GDP, while government spending on basic education has declined to 0.3 per cent of GDP, both figures "extremely low" by international standards, the ADB said.

    As a result of such neglect, urban areas had seen the emergence of a two-tier education system, where children from well-connected families obtained high-quality, modern education, while the rest were relegated to poorly equipped, outmoded schools, the ADB said.

    Similar disparities exist in the health system, and the report estimated that at least one in three children in Burma was malnourished.

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    Burma's Exports May Be 1 Million Tons--Four Times Last Year

    by Tom Hargrove, PlanetRice Editor-in-Chief
    source : PlanetRice.net

    This year's harvest expected at 13 million tons vs. 12.5 million tons last year

    Myanmar, the former Burma, is expected to export 1 million metric tons of rice this year--more than four times the amount sold overseas last year, The Myanmar times reported on Nov. 29.

    "We have exported 300,000 tons during the last 6 months and expect to be able to export another 700,000 tons in the next 6 months," said U Myo Oo, deputy general manager of Myanmar Agricultural Product Trading.

    MAPT, which is under the Ministry of Commerce, exported 230,000 tons of rice in the fiscal year ending last March 31. Last year's figure was up sharply from the 137,000 tons that MAPT sold in 1999 to Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and some African countries. Most of the rice being exported this year is of fair to average quality and is expected to bring about US$120 per ton. Meanwhile, the harvest season is well under way. This year's harvest is expected to be 13 million tons vs. 12.5 million tons last year.

    About 1.5 million acres of monsoon paddy had been harvested by late last week, producing about 1.5 million tons, said U Hla Kyaw, director, Department of Agricultural Planning. "For the whole year, we expect about 10 million tons of paddy from the monsoon crop and 3 million tons of summer paddy," U Hla Kyaw said.

    Summer paddy had been sown on about 200,000 acres by late last week. Planting is continuing and the Department of Agricultural Planning expects a total of 3 million acres of rice to be grown. U Hla Kyaw said the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is negotiating to sell 13,000 tons of quality rice to Malaysian agencies and companies such as Bernas and Petronas.

    Plans to undercut other Asian countries

    Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the military government, which controls the rice trade, is gearing up to capture overseas markets by lowering prices below those offered by other Asian countries.

    Myanmar wants to become a major food producer in the near future, Myanmar military intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt told Reuters.

    "However, we are still facing some difficulties in transporting harvested paddy to the mills, milling the paddy, and transporting the unhusked rice to the storage facilities and ports due to shortage of electricity and diesel oil," an official said.

    World's largest rice exporter before WWII

    Myanmar was the world's largest rice exporter before World War II, according to the Rice Almanac, published by the International Rice Research Institute.

    Rainfed lowland rice accounts for about 52% of the country's rice land; deepwater rice, 24%; irrigated rice, 18%; and upland rice, 6%. Per-capita rice consumption averages 195 kilograms of milled rice per year.

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    "With Quiet Force and Strength of Will"

    by Worldview Rigths 2001-11-30
    source :

    Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez is one of the Campaign Chair for The Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign. Here you can read his latest statement.

    "With quiet force and strength of will, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has peacefully pushed for democracy in her home country of Burma, only to meet the stubborn resistance of the military leaders who for more than ten years have refused to recognize her democratically elected government.

    I fully support the Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma, and encourage others to do so. We must not let her light be extinguished, but instead must keep the eyes of the world on Burma until a peaceful transition to democracy is achieved."

    Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez
    1987 Nobel Peace Laureate
    President of Costa Rica 1986-1990
    Initiator of peace negotiations in Central America

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