Friday, November 21, 2008

Economic crisis as a force for change

by Myat Soe
Mizzima News

20 November 2008

Some economic watchers remark, "When Uncle Sam sneezes, the whole world catches cold." Now, as Uncle Sam has caught a bad cold in the face of a severe economic downturn, investment and trading partners are scrambling to stop a domino effect taking its toll on their own economic interests.

As early as May 2007, a sharp increase in fuel prices forced many factories out of business, and many blue collar American workers in the automobile and other manufacturing industries lost their jobs. By September 2007, in Fort Wayne, Indiana alone, over twenty large manufacturing companies closed their doors and many workers lost their jobs.

Previously, as long as the price of the Euro continued to climb against the American dollar, those outside the United States were often content to think of the crisis in the US as a cyclical phenomenon. But when the US financial crisis began spinning out of control and spreading panic among investors to a level not seen since the Great Depression, the corresponding fallout swept across the globe like a tsunami.

During the ensuing stock market upheavals, Russia and China even resorted to temporary halting trading altogether. Ireland, whose economy had been doing extremely well, began struggling to stabilize its banks. The International Monetary Fund was forced to step in and bailout economies in places such as Hungary and Ukraine to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

Furthermore, Japan, with over a four trillion dollar economy, admitted last Sunday that it had officially entered into a recession, as did Germany. Subsequently, Japan announced a 105.8 billion dollar stimulus plan to prevent further economic deterioration. The United States government had already approved a 700 billion dollar financial rescue bill and China announced a 586 billion dollar stimulus plan to shore up its own economy. And last Saturday, an emergency G-20 economic summit was convened in Washington, DC, to address the urgent crisis in the world's economy.

Sadly, the impact of the financial crisis will be quite severe on the people of Burma as well. First, there are millions of Burmese workers working abroad, and their livelihood will be greatly diminished by the worldwide economic downturn.

Secondly, the people of Burma are without social or economic safety nets. Consequently, the situation in Burma will become more and more tense with each passing day.

Thirdly, it will become more and more cost prohibitive for Burmese to import commodities, compared to their cheaper exports; this, for people already burdened with high unemployment and inflation and saddled with real estate and investment losses.

But while the world wrestles with the economic tsunami, the Burmese junta has been busy handing down up to sixty-five year prison terms to brave political leaders and monks who last year protested against the severe economic hardship in Burma and increasing commodity prices.

Unfortunately, the generals continue to rule Burma without any apparent interest in working to solve Burma's economic and political crisis; instead, only scheming to ensure victory in the forthcoming 2010 elections. Instead of looking toward rapid economic adjustment and finding a solution to the country's economic malaise, the regime is trying to escalate tension within opposition groups and the civilian population.

By the harsh sentencing of activist leaders, essentially a life term behind bars, the military generals in Burma have mocked the world by openly brutalizing the people they have sworn to protect. Burma cannot wait another sixty-five years to be free from tyrannical rule.

Economic crises can become a force for change, as almost happened in 1988 in Burma. And during such crises, the world must make sure to stand with the people of Burma, and not with their oppressors.

(The writer is a former Central Executive Committee member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (1988) and currently serves as the Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. He graduated from Indiana University, and earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.)

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too