Myanmars presidential economists have branded the US
governments plans to instigate a targeted easing of
sanctions as frustrating and called for more
international assistance with regulatory reform.
The US today announced it was ready to ease some sanctions in
the Southeast Asian country, such as a ban on US companies
investing in or offering financial services to the country, in
recognition of its burgeoning democratic transition.
But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed any
relaxation of sanctions would begin cautiously, as Myanmar
still had a long way to go to shake off years of military
The announcement comes as the EU, Japan and Australia revealed
similar plans to ease sanctions and restrictions on doing
business in Myanmar following successful by-elections in the
country last week. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyis
National League for Democracy party won 40 of the 45 seats at
Myanmar presidential economic adviser Set Aung told
IFLR this morning that the sanctions currently in
place had created a monopoly environment which succeeded only
in benefiting the government cronies they were intended to
hinder, and harming the ordinary business man in Myanmar.
Western governments always talk about the good of the
people, but they never do anything beneficial for the
people, he said. They need to better understand
that if this countrys democratic transition is going to
work, it has to link to sustainable economic development which
directly benefits the people.
Simply shifting the goal posts by relaxing periphery
sanctions but holding on to those that really matter like trade
restrictions will not help achieve that, he said.
It is really frustrating and not helping the
He added that the country was desperate for
international assistance with its regulatory reform agenda.
Most ministers are working in areas which they
dont know much about and are therefore desperate for
international consultation, he said.
Our focus is on equitable, inclusive and sustainable
development across the economic, social and environmental
spectrum, but we cant do everything; we are struggling
with the reform process at the moment, he said.
The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of National Planning
and Economic Development were most in need of assistance, he
said, given the number of reforms both departments had
He added that some Asian consultancies were currently
charging $1750 per day to assist with legislative reform but
this was expensive and not enough alone.
The people of Myanmar are complaining reforms are not
happening fast enough, while international governments are
saying we need to slow down, he said.
But if our transition to democracy is going to work we
need to work quickly to narrow the gap between urban and rural
development, he said.
Earlier in the week, a Bank of America report
warned of over-enthusiasm and great uncertainty in the opening
up of Myanmar.
One British diplomat based in Myanmar said today he expected
almost all European sanctions, excluding the arms embargo, to
be lifted when the EU foreign ministers meet to discuss its
policy on the country on April 23.
The British embassy was likely to begin encouraging socially
responsible investment into the country around the same time,
he said. It was also likely to begin to play a very close role
in assisting Myanmar authorities with regulatory reform once
sanctions were lifted, he said. The countrys outdated
Companies Act was particularly in need of revision, he
The President is keen to encourage British businesses
to come in, he said. He thinks a lot can be learnt
from western companies in terms of setting business standards,
such as employee treatment, environmental awareness and so
But he warned the arbitrary rule of law in operation in the
country meant business activity in the region was still a
Set Aung said Myanmar wanted sustainable not irresponsible
or unethical investment. Early birds are going to catch
more worms, he said.