Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sanctions

Continued from last week

Experts, credible persons and officials of State Department revealed the hardships of ordinary Myanmar citizens caused by the sanctions against Myanmar. Those who put their reliance too much on West Bloc may find it hard to swallow these excuses but I believe they cannot deny it.

Moreover, I would like to present comments made by those who were in trouble within the country, entrepreneurs and responsible persons of organizations.

The article entitled “Reconsider Sanctions, Say Businesses and workers” written by Reporter Ye Lwin appeared in the 31 August-6 September, 2009 issue of The Myanmar Times journal.

In the beginning of the article, it is stated that sanctions imposed by the western countries for political purposes adversely affected domestic businesses and led to rising unemployment at grass roots level in Myanmar. The reporter said observers reported last week that sanctions forced young women who lost their jobs in the garment sector to work at night clubs and bars as well as working abroad unwillingly on low wages.

Regarding the matter, the reporter conducted an interview with Ma Ohnmar, 27, a street florist, who lost her job in September 2003 and had to live without a permanent job until 2009 when he started writing that article. She is a native of Ayeyawady Region and worked at a garment factory in Hlinethaya. She has been doing odd jobs to earn her living for many years since the closure of the sanction-hit garment factory that was exporting garments to the US.

Chairman of Myanmar Garment Entrepreneurs Association U Myint Soe told The Myanmar Times that the US sanctions starting from July, 2003 left 85000 garment factory workers jobless, among them 95% to 98% were young women aged between 18 and 35.

U Myint Soe noted that there should be a review on the sanctions on humanitarian grounds because sanctions can do harm to the general population.

Before sanctions, there were 300 garment factories in Myanmar. Due to impact of sanctions, only 120 factories with 85000 workers were left in 2009.

The article stated that Vice-President of Myanmar Fisheries Federation said that the US sanctions had impact not only on the garment sector but also on the fishery sector. Myanmar stood fourth in exportation of marine products to the US in Asia. He said that Myanmar would have become the second leading exporter of marine products if there had been no sanction against her.

Although there are comments made by scholars at home and abroad and entrepreneurs that sanctions affected the general population, I will stop here to highlight the impact of sanctions as the said reports of those who are from various backgrounds and various countries are already enough for my presentation. I would like to make analyses of the NLD’s paper by laying blame on argument about the impact of sanctions in the NLD’s statement.

The statement proved a point that IMF did not accept economic sanction is a major cause of country’s economic hardships. Indeed, IMF did not have such a stance. I found that it stated that economic sanctions have a limited impact on Myanmar economy. IMF has not always said such a politically sensitive issue. Particularly, it is not possible to say in the time of opposing the sanctions by international community. According to Articles of Agreement of IMF’s organizational structure, economic sanction and ban on remittance services were opposed. (Paragraph 2 of Article VI and Paragraph 21 of Article VII of Agreement Article of IMF)

The statement made an argument as to whether the reduction in international development aids caused by sanctions hinders economic growth or not. Their argument is that Myanmar was reduced to a least developed country in December, 1987 although it received US$ 3712 million of Development Aids during the period from 1978 to 1988. It means that withdrawal of development aids after 1988 was not related to Myanmar’s weak economy.

Superficially, this point may be correct but it is meaningless in deed. The development aid Myanmar received during the period from 1978 to 1988 was only US$ 371 million. When it is divided by the population at that time, a citizen can get only about ten dollars. The peoples of neighbouring countries got 20 to 40 dollars each a year. How could Myanmar’s development tasks be carried out in an effective way only through the very small amount of aid?

It is true that Myanmar suffered economic crisis at the end of 1987. In consequence, it caused political instability stirring up the 1988 uprising. Likewise, economic crisis occurred in other world nations and neighbouring nations. For instance, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia suffered the crisis in 1997. Monetary organizations such as IMF had to provide loans.

However, IMF and World Bank stopped disbursing loans to Myanmar in 1987 as it could not repay their loans. When Myanmar was hit by severe cyclone Nargis, they did not even loan a penny. (Haiti was given loans of hundreds of millions of dollars although it still had loans to repay.)

Overseas Development Aid (ODA) the rich nations provided for least developed countries almost halted after 1988.

The problem is that in the paper it is stated as though ‘it was not a demerit to dip a drowning man with a bamboo’. In other words, the paper carries a one-sided attitude by feeding a dying sick man nothing to die automatically.

In reality, the ODA Myanmar receives is far less than the neighbouring nations. For example, I have learned from a news report that Vietnam lodged a complaint as it had to sign a loan contract of over four billion dollars only although it first obtained a promise to get more than eight billion in 2010.

According to the data of 2008 in receiving ODA for a person, Laos received 48 dollars; Cambodia 51.6 dollars; Vietnam 43.5 dollars; Sri Lanka 50 dollars; and Myanmar 10 dollars only. But the amount received includes the aids provided for Nargis. So, actual amount is just over 3 dollars.

Considering that a person should receive 45 dollars a year on average, Myanmar with a population of 50 million had to lose about 2250 million dollars of ODA a year. The amount is equivalent to that derived from the annual sales of natural gas in Myanmar. If Myanmar had received the amount it deserved starting in 1988, it would have contributed to an extent to national development and the health and education of the people.

Anyway, the Myanmar government has worked hard on a self-reliant basis for national development amid various sanctions including aid sanctions. From the income from own resources, it had to build and upgrade infrastructures, roads and bridges necessary for the nation. A cluster of hydropower projects with large investment had to be implemented for energy consumption. Industrial zones were built for industrial progress. For improving agriculture essential to the nation’s food and economy, projects of dams, reservoirs and river-water pumping were implemented. Moreover, efforts had to be exerted to build a modern Tatmadaw for national defence. Schools and universities were built for education and hospitals, dispensaries and medical institutions for health. Thanks to the continued endeavours, Myanmar achieved significant progress in all aspects. When it comes to the agriculture sector, Myanmar has not only enjoyed self-sufficiency in rice but also become a major rice exporter. It has also become a world leading exporter of beans and pulses. With agricultural development, the livelihoods of farmers, the majority of the nation’s population have improved more remarkably than before.

However, the NLD paper pointed out that the living standard of Myanmar people has yet to improve as no priority has been given to improving the health and education of the people. The paper indeed refers to the 2011 human development report of UNDP. In that report also, it is stated that Myanmar’s HDI has significantly progressed since 2005. As the paper says Myanmar has less human development than Laos and Cambodia, I would like to make a comparison by drawing the above-mentioned table how significant Myanmar’s human development is although the index is still in low.

The rate of HDI in Myanmar between 2005 and 2010 was 0.045 while Laos and Cambodia were 0.037 and 0.028 respectively. It means the rate of human development in Myanmar is 21 percent higher than Laos and 60 percent higher than Cambodia.

I would like to explain why Myanmar’s HDI is still low. Education and health development data in Myanmar are not very different from that in those two countries. And its data in other important sectors are far more progressive than the two countries. As to the education sector, Myanmar’s literary rate is 89.9% whilst Laos and Cambodia are 73% and 73.6% respectively. As for the health sector, the mortality rate of mothers in labour is 380 per 100,000 while those of Laos and Cambodia are 660 and 540 respectively. The rate of the use of clean toilets in Myanmar is 81% but Laos and Cambodia have only 53% and 29% respectively.

Yet, the reason why Myanmar is still low in HDI is of two facts. First, Myanmar has different money exchange systems so it is difficult to calculate GNI. In addition, there are other incomes which are not included in the data (e.g. exportation and importation of goods and other business by evading taxes). Second, in the issue of life security, the number of migrants in Myanmar is about 184,000 while those of Laos and Cambodia are 8600 and 17300 respectively. As the data are much different from each other, an overall calculation could not be made and Myanmar’s index has decreased. And for this, blame should be put on prolonged internal insurgencies in Myanmar and those operating on the pretext of refugee camps.

Reviewing the impact of sanctions on Myanmar, it is undeniable that sanctions can affect the grass roots to an extent. But, the country’s economy has improved without having the people below the poverty line not because the sanction imposers have become magnanimous. In reality, there are tougher sanctions against Myanmar and the US president himself signed an order to renew the sanctions. Despite the sanctions, Myanmar has been able to raise her head again thanks to the unity between the government and the people, effective exploitation of natural resources and cooperation and understanding of the regional countries.

However, it is regrettable that the imposers are trying to mislead the peoples of Myanmar and the world unreasonably saying the general public are not affected by their target sanctions.

I will continue to present ‘the effectiveness of sanctions’ showing how effective the sanctions against Myanmar are to help accomplish the aim of imposers.

(To be continued)