Graft Fight Holds Key to Development, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Tells ASEAN Summit

By San Yamin Aung 14 November 2017

YANGON — State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi emphasized combating corruption and the development of human capital as key to achieving sustainable economic growth in Myanmar during a speech at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, while also stressing the important role of women in the economic sphere.

During her keynote speech at the meeting in Manila on Nov. 12, the state counselor told the delegates that “we depend for economic development on the enhancement of integrity … a better way of saying getting rid of corruption.

“I couldn’t help mentioning the fact that some of those who had been engaging in business in Myanmar previously said that it was much easier then because then you knew who you had to bribe. It is a lot more difficult now, because now you have to know how to do business in the right way,” she said, prompting applause.

In the early months of the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led civilian government, some business sources made a similar point, but they also noted the lack of direction from the new administration as detailed economic policies weren’t announced until October 2016, seven months after it took office.

Combating the country’s deep-rooted corruption has been one of the National League for Democracy’s (NLD’s) stated priorities since assuming power. The NLD’s civil service reform strategic action plan (2017-2020) is also focused on tackling corruption.

Despite some improvements, critics fault the slow pace of progress in the graft fight, with corruption reportedly still rampant in the lower levels of government.

During the summit, Myanmar’s de-facto leader said Myanmar had been growing rapidly as it rolled out rigorous reforms and structural changes in every sector, while reminding the audience that the country had only recently emerged from decades of economic and political isolation and still faced many challenges.

The most notable reforms have been in the investment sector with visible progress being made to ensure a level playing field to strengthen competition and to create a favorable, predictable and friendly investment climate, including reducing bureaucratic red-tape, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.

A former long-time political prisoner as well as pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said “Myanmar, as a young democracy, started with many, many challenges and has become fully aware of the need for development of people as human beings not just economic powerhouses.”

She said human capital development is central to achieving sustainable economic growth and development and thus empowering women is also a form of human capital development as women are an important part of human capital.

“I would like us to think more about what we mean by power and what we mean by capital. Are we thinking only in material terms — that power is economic power? And that capital is economic capital? The material capital that will give us clout?”

“This may seem old-fashioned these days to think of developing ourselves as better human beings rather than as materially more powerful countries. But perhaps it is about time we think about these things,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.