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A golden pot shall be brought home: The Case of Development in Myanmar from local to global network in growth

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Development is a new concept in Myanmar’s political literature. International development experts, agencies and specialists in many fields have been flying in and out to Myanmar in the past five years. Politicians and business leaders have also conducted meetings, summits and other forms of engagement with local populations either by choice or by chance of opportunity. The word “developments” shall be examined in the context of the people of Myanmar based on social, cultural and community expectations in wider perspective. Farmers are struggling for living and youth in rural areas are not provided adequate social protection on healthcare or access to recreational programs. Most rural people and many people in small cities in Mon and Karen State have been receiving remittance from children and families from aboard for daily living. The question of development shall be looking beyond politics, ideology and armed struggle. This is an overdue question for the leader of each political party, armed ethnic leaders and new and emerging community leaders in the non-government agencies. The answer shall be found through professional knowledge, practical solutions and approaches to the problem. Development is a process of planning, engaging and working with local populations socially, culturally and professionally. After the peace process is sealed, the next process of development shall be addressed nationally as the urgent action for reducing poverty and improve living standards.

Entrance to Mon State’s capital city, Mawlamyine, (Photo: MNA)
Entrance to Mon State’s capital city, Mawlamyine, (Photo: MNA)
This is not to say democratic change should be stalled: state institutions need to be stronger, more accountable and, in a multi-ethnic society, more inclusive. Parallel processes need to combine a push for democratic change with state-building and economic transformation. Foreign governments can help by promoting trade and investment, for example, in manufacturing, that will nurture a new economy, one less reliant on extractive industries. Finally, they can provide much more aid to the state institutions needed to regulate the economy and manage change, as written by Myanmar’s scholar Thant – Myint U in 2014. But after two years of predicting the trend, the process to development, improved economy, and access to health care, education and employment is a critical task that the current government will have to perform regardless of the popularity in question.

International development specialists and experts have been working in many parts of Asia for over fifty years, such as India, Cambodia, Thailand, and other counties in Southeast Asia, especially in armed conflicted nations. However, poverty is yet to be eradicated by 40% of total population in the regions as suggested in the OECD and Asian Development Bank reports. The local action for development has been misguided when the international specialists only draw a project of short terms but long term project is yet committed by the developed countries. Local NGOs and other INGOs leaders have been working with uncertainty on the ground in terms of funding and access to finance by the government of Union of Myanmar. The State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi advocated the lifting of sanctions by the US Government in her recent trip to Washington last week. The nation shall not be hurt any longer than it should be deserved by the US sanction, as Daw Suu Kyi explained to the media in the White House. A ‘golden pot’ shall be brought back home, a message written by the ex-General, current head of the Committee for Law Reform, Thura U Shwe Marn. The development concept is at least given a space in the modern Myanmar’s political literature.

Naypyitaw (Suu Kyi led Government) must also focus on improving those aspects of governance that pertain to the provision of international project finance. These include paying attention to the legal and regulatory environment, and perhaps drafting specific project finance and SPV laws and addressing land issues. Land acquisition should be undertaken by the government through exercise of eminent domain to ensure that infrastructure concessions are bankable, perhaps compensating farmers with fallow and virgin lands repossessed from agribusinesses that have failed to invest. The currency should be depreciated to a level that is stable for the project loan durations and realistic for spurring export-led growth. And industrial policies should be developed so that Myanmar integrates with the world economy in a way that promotes its own industrialization and technological advancement, as warned by Stuart Larkin, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), in 2011. Local knowledge to development shall be targeted by each industry if the government of union Myanmar is seeking growth.

The Suu Kyi-led government will be seeking further investment from OECD’s countries and beyond in terms of access to finance and loans during its next five years in office. The task of working with OECD and other investment firms shall be integrated to local private and community partnerships as a standard of ‘good practice’ in due course. So, since 2014, the OECD has been engaged in making the case, building the evidence, and identifying what works in the fight for more inclusive growth. However, the foundation of development shall be based on justice as warned by the Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, OECD in New York, Sunday 18 September 2016. ’Access to justice’ is a central part of this, as also reaffirmed by the OECD Roundtables on Equal Access to Justice. Access to effective forms of justice give citizens effective recourse if they are blocked from obtaining an education, discriminated against at work, or deprived of their right to health care. Justice systems are there to protect the vulnerable from abuse and exploitation, resolve disputes, and foster participation in just societies.

Finally, development shall not be based on access to funding, finance and investment. Instead, the process shall be based on the fairness, justice and equity to the common humanity. Access to equity, justice, basic human rights, and to land shall be protected by laws so that the local farmers are able to contribute for suitable growth from local to global. In short, development shall be started from local to global in the context of social, cultural and community expectation. A golden pot will be brought home not just by Daw Suu Kyi from the US trip but by the local farmer to his wife.

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