Thursday, 21 November 2019

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‘Economics and politics inseparable’, Stiglitz tells Burma

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Nobel Laureate Prof. Joseph Stiglitz said Burma needs an all inclusive economic process in order to achieve stability and security as “Economics and politics cannot be separated.”

Prof. Stiglitz was speaking at a forum on “Restoring Burma as the Rice Bowl of Asia”, organised by the Burmese government and the United Nations Economics and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), on Monday.

“Economics and politics cannot be separated,” said the Nobel Prize winning economist.

“For Myanmar [Burma] to play a role on the world stage — and to achieve true stability and security — there must be widespread participation and inclusive processes. This is the only way forward for Myanmar [Burma],” he added.

According to a UN Press release on Monday, the former World Bank Chief said Burma has a large opportunity for development and that it should take a comprehensive approach.

He urged the Burmese government to promote access to appropriate agricultural financing, take measures to boost access to seeds and fertilizers, dramatically boost spending on health and education, and create well-paid jobs in construction of rural infrastructure in order to stimulate development and raise incomes and spending.

Prof Stiglitz, however, said, while Burma’s revenues earned from the sales of oil and gas can help open up a new era, if they are not wisely used, the opportunities would be wasted.

“Revenues from oil and gas can open up a new era, if used well. If not, then valuable opportunities will be squandered,” Prof. Stiglitz said.

Prof. Stiglitz also noted that well-functioning institutions were critical to success and that Burma could learn from the mistakes made by other resource-rich countries.

The American economist was visiting Burma at the invitation of UNESCAP. Prior to his visit, critics aired doubts about the Burmese junta’s desire to accept serious advice on economic reforms.

According to Prof. Sean Turnell of the Macquarie University of Sydney, Australia, genuine economic reform will require political space and willingness as it is impossible for the economy to be partially open to reform.

Turnell said the failed economic situation in Burma is the result of decades of economic mismanagement by the ruling military junta, which has no comprehensive economic planning.

“It is my hope these ideas and analysis will open a new space for policy discussion and a further deepening of our development partnership,” UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer said at the event held in Burma’s new jungle capital city of Naypyitaw.

“These development objectives can only be achieved through the successful engagement of local experts and people who know what is happening on the ground. This development partnership, requested by the Government of Myanmar [Burma], provides a unique platform for eminent international scholars and local researchers to exchange experiences and ideas with government agencies and civil society,” Dr. Heyzer added.

The event is the second in a series launched by Dr. Heyzer during her visit in July and was organized by ESCAP in collaboration with Burma’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.


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