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General reports and articles

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Title: Myanmar's minorities face multi-faced jeopardy
Date of publication: 23 January 2014
Description/subject: "Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. The international community, whose Western representatives so readily flock to Myanmar in both good will and selfish interest, is often an unwitting contributor to the country's persistent instability. This will likely lead not to intended peace but to more unwanted war until certain facts are fully faced..."
Author/creator: Tim Heinemann
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Asia Times Online"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 27 May 2014


Title: Minerals, militants and Myanmar peace
Date of publication: 23 October 2013
Description/subject: "A recent spate of bombings in Myanmar was attributed by police to local mining businessmen intent on stopping foreign investment. These rogue commercial elements were seemingly worried of the impact on their business interests. The shadowy assaults, including a bomb that detonated in a room occupied by an American in the Traders Hotel, demonstrates just how complex the climate for investors is in Myanmar. It also reveals how opaque mining interests could derail the peace process underway between the government and armed rebels and jeopardize the country's democratic transition. Hype persists over Myanmar's resource wealth, with the country gearing up for new waves of investment and new mining laws predicted to shortly come into effect. A recent Asian Development Bank study noted that Myanmar could become Asia's next "rising star" if it can leverage its rich resource potential. However, regardless of much optimism, difficulties remain and if not addressed could unsettle the peace process. The most important issue for investors, but also populations living near resources, is the reform of legal and regulatory frameworks. The current uncertainty in these frameworks has undermined the investment climate. Similarly, land tenure must be defined and a sustainable agreement reached with armed ethnic groups for their greater inclusion into the democratic process. Greater transparency is also needed to boost confidence in local actors that remain entangled with military powerbrokers. If such a prudent approach is not achieved, resources could become more of a burden than a boon in the country's transformation..."
Author/creator: Elliot Brennan
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Asia Times Online"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 28 May 2014


Title: Myanmar facing stock market riddle
Date of publication: 12 September 2013
Description/subject: "As economic models of development fail to specify when countries should establish stock markets, determining when Myanmar will establish a stock exchange has turned into a guessing game among analysts of its transitional economy. Growth rates and income standards, while relevant, are not the primary factors that determine an optimal time for start-up. For Myanmar, the right time will depend on the degree to which a proper regulatory environment is put into place and actual, not rhetorical, commitments to capital markets are made. Clearly stated rules and regulations for companies that desire to be listed need to be established and the investment community must be convinced that these regulations will be enforced. There will be a need to introduce international accounting standards and specific legal procedures for handling such issues as bankruptcy proceedings. The rights of the stockholder also need to be defined..."
Author/creator: Dennis C McCornac
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Asia Times Online"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 29 May 2014


Title: Are Aid Donors Repeating Mistakes in Myanmar?
Date of publication: 16 March 2013
Description/subject: "...In our assessment of foreign aid to Myanmar, we have pointed to three steps donors can take to make their aid more effective: Slow down and do more joint operations. To ensure that senior officials are not overwhelmed by visitors, some host countries have adopted formal limits on the number of aid delegations they will receive. It would be better for Myanmar’s donors to act first to control the flow, including an effort to undertake more joint operations. It would be reasonable for donors to commit at least 30 percent of their funding to these types of operations. Provide scholarships for foreign study. It will take years for Myanmar to raise the standard of education in its universities to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) norm, let alone to the prominence it had in Asia when it gained its independence in 1948. To build the expertise Myanmar requires in the short term to meet its development objectives, the only solution is education abroad on a massive scale. One advantage of allocating aid resources to scholarships is that it has the least potential for doing harm. Be more innovative. A number of techniques for making aid more effective have been proposed since the Paris Declaration was adopted. One of these is “cash on delivery aid.” This technique has the advantage of reinforcing good management within government ministries, minimizing the administrative burden of aid, and ensuring that every dollar of aid goes to support successful projects. None of Myanmar’s donors appear to be using approaches of this kind.
Author/creator: Lex Rieffel and James Fox
Language: English
Source/publisher: Brookings Institution
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.brookings.edu/research/topics/myanmar
Date of entry/update: 24 March 2013


Title: An Early Assessment of Foreign Aid to Myanmar (audio and transcript)
Date of publication: 14 March 2013
Description/subject: Summary: "In the past two years, Myanmar has undergone a remarkable transformation: an unanticipated shift from military to quasi-civilian governance, the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the legislature, steps toward peace with ethnic minorities, and economic reforms designed to alleviate poverty. These developments prompted Western countries to suspend or lift wide-ranging political and economic sanctions, which were responses to the regime’s suppression of the democratic opposition and dismal human rights record after 1988. As sanctions were withdrawn, aid agencies and international NGOs rushed to Myanmar to support the Thein Sein government’s reform agenda. The interest in Myanmar among the donor community and the level of aid activity are extremely high, leading some observers to question whether Myanmar is receiving too much attention from the foreign aid community. On March 14, Global Economy and Development at Brookings hosted a discussion on foreign aid to the new government of Myanmar. Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Lex Rieffel and former USAID Senior Economist James W. Fox presented their new report, “Too Much, Too Soon? The Dilemma of Foreign Aid to Myanmar/Burma,” which was published by Nathan Associates. Discussion about the report and broader issues followed the presentation and included: Joseph Yun, acting assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and David Steinberg, distinguished professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Alex Shakow, former USAID assistant administrator for policy and program coordination and former executive secretary of the IMF-World Bank Development Committee, moderated the discussion."
Author/creator: Lex Rieffel, James W. Fox, David Steinberg, Joseph Yun, Alex Shakow
Language: English
Source/publisher: Brookings Institution
Format/size: html. audio (1hr, 30 minutes)
Alternate URLs: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/events/2013/3/14-myanmar/20130314_myanmar_aid_transcript.pdf (uncorrected transcript)
http://www.brookings.edu/research/topics/myanmar
Date of entry/update: 24 March 2013


Title: Too Much, Too Soon? The Dilemma of Foreign Aid to Myanmar/Burma
Date of publication: March 2013
Description/subject: Introduction: At the end of March 2011, Myanmar began an ambitious political transition led by newly elected President Thein Sein. Bold moves in his first year included opening a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, suspending construction of the Chinese-funded Myitsone Dam, and abandoning a grossly overvalued exchange rate in favor of a market- determined rate. These moves unleashed a swarm of visitors seeking to support the transition and “make a difference”: prime ministers, foreign ministers, heads of donor agencies and international NGOs, chief executives of multinational corporations, and many others. The question posed in this report is whether the outpouring of foreign aid to Myanmar expected in the medium term (three to five years) will be more of a blessing than a curse. The question may seem unfriendly or ideological on the surface, but merits being taken seriously because of the experience of a handful of countries over the past 10 to 15 years that have suffered from large and rapid build-up of foreign aid. As posed, however, the question is too stark. A gentler version is: what steps can be taken by aid donors and the Government of Myanmar to enhance the effectiveness of aid programs and projects, and mitigate possible adverse consequences? Our report begins with a brief discussion of the dilemma of foreign aid to Myanmar: how it can be harmful despite the best intentions of the donors. We then present the policy implications of our findings, for the Government of Myanmar and for the donor community. The next two parts of the report describe the Government of Myanmar’s national planning process and the steps it is taking to manage foreign aid. We then assess donor performance against the principles of the Paris Declaration and the Busan Partnership. The last two parts describe donor activity in general terms and then individually for Myanmar’s major development partners. In 1989, the military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar and this change was officially accepted by the United Nations. We generally use Burma when referring to the country before 1989 and Myanmar afterwards. We have included four appendices with different audiences in mind. Appendix A describes the historical, political, and economic context for readers who are not familiar with this background. Appendix B elaborates on the standards of aid effectiveness contained in the Paris Declaration and Busan Partnership. Appendix C highlights lessons learned from other countries that have been challenged by strong donor interest. Appendix D recounts newly independent Burma’s first experience with national development planning, featuring the work of the American economist Robert R. Nathan, and calls attention to a comparable Japan- supported effort launched in 2001. We should be clear about the limitations of our report on foreign aid for Myanmar. In particular, our knowledge of Myanmar is limited. Altogether we have spent less than six months inside the country over the past 45 years and we do not speak any of the local languages. Moreover, with our 50-year perspectives on economic development, we know that the world’s leading experts are still unsure how to explain China’s phenomenal progress or Argentina’s lack of progress. These experts are even more unsure about how to adapt lessons from global experience to a country like Myanmar that is undertaking a sweeping reform effort with a legacy of complex internal conflicts and poverty-inducing governance.
Author/creator: Lex Rieffel and James W. Fox
Language: Burmese/ ျမန္မာဘာသာ and English, English
Source/publisher: FOR Nathan Associates Inc.
Format/size: pdf 497K-OBL version; 2.62MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.nathaninc.com/sites/default/files/Pub%20PDFs/TooMuchTooSoon.pdf
Date of entry/update: 24 March 2013


Title: Myanmar: Making the Reforms Count (audio)
Date of publication: 26 February 2013
Description/subject: Summary: "Myanmar is rapidly emerging from half a century of isolation. Over the last two years, the government has made great strides in political and economic reforms and in improving its diplomatic relationship with the international community. Despite these changes, Myanmar faces many challenges in sustaining the momentum of reform and transformation. In addition, the international community has not developed a strategy for working together to assist the country's progress. On February 26, Global Economy and Development at Brookings and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) hosted a discussion on the shifting landscape and new challenges in Myanmar as well as the IMF and international community’s role in addressing these. Panelists included: Priscilla Clapp, former U.S. mission chief to Myanmar; Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Lex Rieffel; Anoop Singh, director of the Asia and Pacific Department at the International Monetary Fund; and Frances Zwenig, president of the US-ASEAN Business Council Institute, Inc. Vikram Nehru, senior associate in the Asia Program and Bakrie Chair in Southeast Asian Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, moderated the discussion."
Author/creator: Vikram Nehru, Priscilla Clapp, Lex Rieffel, Anoop Singh, Frances Zwenig.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Brookings Institution
Format/size: audio (podcast) 1 hour, 56 minutes
Alternate URLs: http://www.brookings.edu/research/topics/myanmar
Date of entry/update: 24 March 2013


Title: Burma in the Balance: The Role of Foreign Assistance in Supporting Burma’s Democratic Transition
Date of publication: March 2012
Description/subject: "...Among the questions that this report seeks to address are: - What principles should donors adhere to in developing expanded assistance programs for Burma so that they support a genuine democratization process and structural human rights improvements? - How should donors think about issues of sequencing and prioritization in their assistance programs in order to most effectively support democratization and ensure the deepening and broadening of reforms? - What does ‘country-directed assistance’ mean in the intensely politically contested context of Burma? What is the role of the National League for Democracy and other important non-state actors, and how should donors interact with them? Are Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD merely one of many civil society stakeholders in a multi-stakeholder environment or do they have a privileged role, possibly on par with or even more legitimate than that of the government? - What kind of delivery mechanisms will most effectively promote transparency, accountability, strengthened local capacity, national reconciliation, and continued political reforms? How can these objectives be effectively maintained as assistance scales up in size and scope? - What is the appropriate role of multi-lateral institutions in the current Burmese context, particularly given the weak postures that some have demonstrated in the past? How can they balance their preference for working directly with government institutions with concerns about instrumentalization and genuine involvement of Burmese civil society? - How can responsible donors balance and, potentially, bridge their external Burma programs (i.e. in Thailand, India and Bangladesh) in a way that both supports political reforms in Burma and retains support for those who are currently unable to return to Burma to take part in these processes? Through the analysis and recommendations developed in this report, Project 2049 Institute hopes to provide the donor community some reference points as it develops responsible interventions in a unique and important context. Given the long-time policy advocacy by most key donor countries in support of democratization and national reconciliation in Burma, the current environment creates enormous potential for positive synergies between assistance and policy, as well as dangers that abrupt policy shifts that could undermine both. As this rapidly evolving situation continues to move forward, Project 2049 hopes that this report will serve as a new baseline for an ongoing dialogue about how the donor community can effectively support the simultaneous advance of sustainable political reform and economic development in Burma..."
Author/creator: Kelley Currie
Language: English
Source/publisher: Project 2049 Institute
Format/size: pdf (942K-OBL version; 1MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://project2049.net/documents/burma_in_the_balance_currie.pdf
Date of entry/update: 12 June 2012