US pledges $21 mil­lion for eco­nomic boost

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­

In or­der to help fa­cil­i­tate a cli­mate at­trac­tive to US in­vestors, the state depart­ment has ded­i­cated a sum for trade and eco­nom­ics, se­cu­rity ad­viser Ben Rhodes an­nounced.

THE United States yes­ter­day pledged US$21 mil­lion for im­prov­ing trade and eco­nomic gov­er­nance in Myan­mar.

The sum was an­nounced at Yangon Univer­sity as deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Ben Rhodes spoke with stu­dents.

“[Yes­ter­day], I was able to no­tify the state coun­sel­lor and the gov­ern­ment that the United States will be pro­vid­ing an ad­di­tional $21 mil­lion dol­lars in as­sis­tance, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on eco­nomic gov­er­nance and find­ing a new strat­egy to help in­di­vid­u­als bet­ter their lives,” Mr Rhodes said at the univer­sity event.

Mr Rhodes also re­it­er­ated the US’s in­ter­est in bol­ster­ing the new gov­ern­ment. The US has been a long­time ally of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Na­tional League for Democ­racy.

“The fun­da­men­tal ob­jec­tive of the United States right now is to help the new gov­ern­ment suc­ceed in con­sol­i­dat­ing the demo­cratic tran­si­tion, so that all of the peo­ple in Myan­mar ben­e­fit from greater eco­nomic progress, greater free­dom, na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, and greater con­nec­tiv­ity to the world,” he said.

The US is con­sid­er­ing “a whole host of ways” in which it can help strengthen the econ­omy of Myan­mar – es­pe­cially in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor – and fa­cil­i­tate a cli­mate at­trac­tive to busi­nesses in the United States.

US Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID) ad­min­is­tra­tor Gayle Smith vis­ited Myan­mar in May, shortly be­fore the US black­list­ing was eased.

The US am­bas­sador to Myan­mar said at the time that the ad­min­is­tra­tor was vis­it­ing to ob­serve and hear the eco­nomic pri­or­i­ties and poli­cies of the new gov­ern­ment.

Fol­low­ing the visit, on May 17 the US Trea­sury Depart­ment ex­tended the ma­jor­ity of the sanc­tions on pri­vate busi­ness en­ti­ties and put more firms linked to Asia World into the Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Na­tion­als list, but re­moved state-backed en­ti­ties from the black­list.

Mr Rhodes said the US gov­ern­ment has lifted the eco­nomic sanc­tions against the state en­ti­ties of Myan­mar in the af­ter­math of the suc­cess­ful elec­tion last Novem­ber and peace­ful trans­fer of power to a civil­ian-elected gov­ern­ment.

The ma­jor­ity of the re­main­ing sanc­tions tar­get ty­coons and ef­fec­tively bar any eco­nomic part­ner­ship be­tween those in­di­vid­u­als and US busi­nesses.

Mr Rhodes, how­ever, ad­mit­ted that the cur­rent ap­proach to the eco­nomic sanc­tions puts a bur­den on Myan­mar. “We put [them] into place in a dif­fer­ent era at a dif­fer­ent time for the pur­pose of sup­port­ing tran­si­tion to democ­racy,” he said.

Mr Rhodes also re­vealed that the US is con­sid­er­ing in­creas­ing mil­i­taryto-mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion.

“Clearly, what we have con­sis­tently said go­ing for­ward, is [that we are wait­ing for] a full tran­si­tion to a civil­ian gov­ern­ment here and full civil­ian con­trol of the mil­i­tary. What we are do­ing is cal­i­brat­ing our en­gage­ment with the mil­i­tary to sup­port that ef­fort go­ing for­ward,” he said.

“Thus far, we have lim­ited our en­gage­ment to en­cour­age the work for re­form, peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, to share what we know about the mod­ern civil­ian-mil­i­tary re­la­tions and the pro­mo­tion of hu­man rights in terms of the op­er­a­tions of other pro­fes­sional mil­i­taries,” he added.

The con­sti­tu­tional clause guar­an­tee­ing that mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives hold a 25 per­cent bloc of par­lia­ment is a “con­sid­er­a­tion for en­gage­ment”, he added.

Dur­ing a press brief­ing last May at the Cen­ter for New Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity, Mr Rhodes said that the US gov­ern­ment had fo­cused its ten­ta­tive mil­i­tary en­gage­ment on ex­changes, outreach, pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion, and sup­port­ing Myan­mar’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and dis­as­ter re­lief.

The mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary ties al­ready in­clude mem­bers of the Tat­madaw and civil­ian of­fi­cials at­tend­ing some mul­ti­lat­eral con­fer­ences hosted by the US Depart­ment of De­fence and ob­serv­ing the an­nual COBRA GOLD ex­er­cise, Mr Rhodes said.

Myan­mar sent two Tat­madaw of­fi­cers as ob­servers to the an­nual COBRA GOLD ex­er­cise for the first time when it was hosted by Thai­land in Fe­bru­ary 2013.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

US deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Ben Rhodes held a press con­fer­ence at Yangon Univer­sity yes­ter­day.

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