Friday, July 17, 2009

Soaring investment in Burma 'could hurt' population

(DVB)–Foreign investment in Burma has soared in the past year, with China’s ramped up economic interest in the country accounting for the majority of the rise, said a Burmese government report yesterday.

According to the report, released by the Ministry of Planning and Development, investment leaped from $US172.7 million in the 2007/08 fiscal year to $US984.9m.

The ministry announced that 87 percent of the total investment had come from China, with the majority of its investment focused on the extractive sector.

Reports show that small Chinese companies are focusing on Burma’s hydropower, mining and oil industries.

Economic analysts are concerned however that the extra investment will have no valued impact on the economy as Chinese companies attempt to yield quick results.

Burma expert and economist Sean Turnell, from Macquarie University in Australia, said that the Burmese economy is too risky for investment in infrastructure sectors, with the level of poverty in Burma so extensive that there is no attraction to consumer sectors.

“Burma attracts wild cat companies who come in and out to make dirty money,” said Turnell.

“Burma is at the grip of a resource curse; the extra investment will help the generals stay in power but will not benefit the local people.”

Environmental groups are also concerned that the increased investment will further worsen human rights violations occurring as a result of the resource extraction project.

It is believed that a large chunk of the investment will be going to build the Shwe Gas fields over the coming years.

Spokespeson for anti-pipeline campaign group Shwe Gas Movement, Win Aung, believes that the extra investment from China is only adding to the difficult situation that many people in Arakan state, where the pipeline will begin, already face.

A significant proportion of the Arakan population rely on fishing, and in times of gas or oil exploration, the government often cuts off fishing areas.

“Fishermen are restrained from fishing so they are unable to feed their families,” said Win Aung.

“Military battalions are sent into protect the construction and they create many problems as they confiscate land.

“The government should be directing foreign investment into education and health so the people of Burma will benefit in the future”.

Reporting by Alex Ellgee

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