News / Asia

Analysts Fear Burma's Reforms Stalling

A couple takes a self-portrait at People's Square on Valentine's Day near Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon, Feb. 14 , 2014.
A couple takes a self-portrait at People's Square on Valentine's Day near Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon, Feb. 14 , 2014.
Ron Corben
— Analysts said there are fears Burma's program of political and economic reforms are stalling before the 2015 national elections.  Bangkok rights concerns are growing as the foreign business community remains upbeat over Burma's long term economic potential.

The Asian Development (ADB) said Burma can become a middle income country by 2030 if it is able to sustain economic growth rates of more than six percent a year.

The economic and political reforms begun in 2011 have led most nations to set aside long standing economic sanctions against military rule in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

Australian lawyer and consultant on Burma John Hancock said foreign investors recognize Burma's potential.

"It is just remarkable what has happened there in the last five, six, seven years.  The opening up has been just quite remarkable," he said. "The will to change, the will to move forward, is quite amazing.  There is such potential there now.  Everyone wants to be there, everyone is willing to throw money in there to support their interest to get on the fast track."            

But Hancock said economic challenges include land reform, infrastructure spending and education, as well as rebuilding the country's civil service.

Burma remains one of the poorest nations in South East Asia, with more than one quarter of the population of 61 million living below the national poverty line.  Many of the poor are in the rural areas and affected by an absence of adequate land registration and titling, leaving millions vulnerable.

The editor of the Irrawaddy newspaper, Aung Zaw, said many in Burma fear a regression in the pace of reform.

"It has been more than three years, people now in Burma said that they have seen a regression on every front, particularly with the 'gold rush,' Zaw said. "The world is going in [to Burma] and they praise the regime for making the changes.  They were just fooled by this reform process. If you looked at it now it is very messy because this land confiscation is unresolved.  It is a huge issue in the country."

Zaw said in the border regions evidence points to the army "taking over everything," forcing villagers to relocate in order to make way for foreign investment. He said development of Special Economic Zones, such as Dawei in Burma's south, have drawn foreign investors, but often at huge social and environmental costs as people are forced to leave their homes, often without adequate compensation.

The Australian government has warned investors that individuals and companies with close ties to Burma's military continue to exercise influence across many areas of the economy, including oil, gas and timber.  

An economist at Sydney-based Macquarie University, Sean Turnell, said reform has also slowed in the agricultural sector where 65 percent of Burma's population makes a living.

"What I am really struck by is the lack of progress in agriculture.  What would make the biggest difference now to the lives of the people?  It is about reforming agriculture," he said. "One aspect is the land and somehow bringing about land security and in that front alone we have actually seen regression rather than any progress." .

Turnell said without land rights farmers have little access to credit leading to high rates of indebtedness.  Reforms are also facing resistance from conservative members in the government.

Analysts said the key lies in the outcome of the 2015 national elections, but say vested interests fearing further change are working to undermine reforms by stirring ethnic and religious divisions.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid