Monday, July 6, 2009

Foreign investments soar in Burma despite economic sanctions

by Solomon

New Delhi (mizzima) - Economic sanctions imposed by the West – United States and the European Union – notwithstanding, foreign investments in Burma, since 1988, accounts for a total of US dollar 15 billion.

The energy sector, which includes oil and gas, and hydroelectric power plants, is the single largest domain that attracted foreign investments, said an official of the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

The present military rulers of Burma, in power since 1988, opened its doors to neighbours including China, Thailand, and India and welcomed investments in oil and gas and hydropower-projects.

“The Hat Gyi hydroelectric power project alone attracted over US$ 6 billion in 2006-2007,” said the official. The Hat Gyi hydro-project is to be built in eastern Burma’s Karen state in collaboration with Thailand.

“Thailand is the leading investor in the energy sector,” the official added.

Both Thailand and China have made multi-billion dollar investments in hydroelectricity projects in Eastern and Northern parts of Burma.

Burma’s military regime, riding on the crest of foreign investments, has planned to construct several dams along the Salween River, which will produce an estimated 14,000 megawatts of power at an approximate budget of US$ 20 billion.

A report in a local journal in Rangoon, the Weekly Eleven states that Thailand is the leading investor in Burma with an estimated investment of USD 7.41 billion, followed by the United Kingdom which has invested USD 1.8 billion, despite imposing economic and financial sanctions against the ruling junta.

Singapore is in the third spot with an investment of USD 1.55 billion, followed by China in the fourth position with 1.33 billion U.S. dollars.

The four are followed by Malaysia with USD 660.75 million, Hong Kong SAR with USD 504.22 million, France USD 469 million, the United States USD 243,565 million, Indonesia USD 241.50 million and South Korea USD 239.32 million.

The Weekly said, investments were made by 31 countries and regions in 424 projects, in 12 economic sectors, including electricity, oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate, hotels and tourism, mining, transport and communications, livestock breeding and fisheries, industry, construction, agriculture and the services sector.

Khin Maung Kyi, a Singapore-based Burmese economist said despite sanctions by western nations against the ruling regime, foreign investments in Burma are likely to grow further.

“It is not a surprise because China alone is into a great number of investments especially in oil and gas sectors,” said Khin Maung Kyi.

However, he said, sadly the investments, which he estimates would be over USD 15 billion, has never been spent on social development of the country or used for the uplift of the living standards of the people.

“I really doubt that these foreign investments have benefited the people and have contributed to the development of the country,” he said.

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