Burma Still Lacks Transparency: OGP

By Thet Swe Aye 23 February 2013

RANGOON — The co-chairperson of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) said despite the Burmese president’s desire to join the international transparency organization, important changes must be made before the country is ready to become a member.

British MP and Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said on Thursday that President Thein Sein stated his intention to seek OGP membership within the next three years during a meeting with him this week in Naypyidaw.

“Although there has been dramatic change over the last two years, this country is still at the early stage, with a long climb still ahead,” said Maude, who is also the OGP co-chairperson.

The OGP is an organization that promotes transparency and aims to make governments and civic institutions around the world more open, effective, and accountable.

Maude told The Irrawaddy that for Burma to become a member of the OGP in 2016, the government will need to familiarize itself with the requirements for becoming a member and be preferred to meet them.

“There are important changes which need to be implemented in order for this country to join OGP, including budget transparency, disclosure of assets for senior public officials, a free media law—which seems pretty much, from what I’m hearing and seeing here, to be in place already—[and] an access to information law,” he said.

Despite reforms initiated since Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian administration assumed office nearly two years ago, Burma’s government remains one of the world’s least transparent. Burma ranked 172 out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2012.

Kyee Myint of the Myanmar Lawyers Network said that Burma remains far from transparent, citing the example of the government’s dealings with foreign investors such as Wanbao, the Chinese company behind the controversial Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division.

Earlier this month, 16 employees of Burma’s Customs Department, including two deputy-directors and two supervisors, were sacked for taking bribes. The government also recently took action against former Minister of Communications and Information Technology Thein Htun and other senior communications officials for misuse of public property.