Narinjara News

Monopoly on transport sends essential prices up in Burma, raises ethical questions

Sittwe, 21
st July 03The monopoly granted to a private transport company has caused sharp increase in prices of all the essential commodities brought to the western Burmese state of Rakhine from Burma proper.  The ruling State Peace and Development Council junta granted the Kyauktaung Transport Company sole rights to carry the transport business between Sittwe, the state capital, and Taungup, the southern reach of Rakhine State that connects Pyi on the Burma proper for the year 2003.

Since the beginning of this year, the company has been conducting the business of transporting goods as well as collecting tolls from all the goods carried including sack loads of vegetables and other perishable commodities, said a source in the company.  The Burmese regime owned vessels named Aung-Takhun  1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 have also been leased out to the company for carrying out the transportation monopoly.

On asking why the agents of the company collect the high fares, the owner U Kyauktaung from Taungup said that he has to pay the money for leasing and carrying out the business in US dollar, which he has to buy from the black market at high prices.  He declined to comment on the amount of US dollars he has to pay for running his business.  But he said that he has to pay not only the legal rate for the lease, but also bribes to the lesser local officials of the SPDC.  He also said that he had to bribe a large sum of money to secure the monopoly over the entire business.

At present the price of a viss (= 1.6 kilo) of groundnut oil is kyat 1,900, palm oil is kyat 1,500, onion is kyat 1,200, garlic is kyat 1,500, sugar is kyat 600, gram pulse is kyat 800, an egg is kyat 50, potato is kyat 400, and diesel fuel is kyat 1,900 to the gallon, petrol is kyat 1,600 to the gallon. 

In recent months due to the absence of other competitive transport houses the prices of all the commodities coming in from other states and divisions into Rakhine State recorded a sharp increase between 30% and 120%, said a university professor.  “The granting of licenses and leases to one sole company for running the entire transport of the state is not only unethical, but also raises a number of questions to the policy of the much trumpeted ‘Free market economy’ of the ruling Burmese junta  what kind of free market economy is it if there is no private enterprises to compete with and there is a policy of state sponsored extortion to go on and on.”

Besides that our correspondent quoting a source in the administration said that there is a ban on transportation of onions, garlic, and edible oil from Burma proper to Rakhine State.  “The ban also raises another question,” the source added, “is Rakhine State not part of Burma?  Or why is there the discrimination: if goods from Rakhine could be transported to Burma proper why should Burmese goods be banned from coming into Rakhine?  This is plain discrimination meant to render the life of the people of Rakhine unbearable.”  #