US pledges $21 million for economic boost
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.
US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes held a press conference at Yangon University yesterday.