IFI Assistance to Burma in US 'National Interest': Clinton

By Lalit K Jha 19 October 2012

WASHINGTON—The United States will support international financial institutions’ (IFI) assistance to Burma, its Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said on Thursday, paving the way for this Southeast Asian nation to receive financial support from organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“On Oct. 12, the Secretary of State made a determination that it is in the national interest of the United States to support international financial institution assistance to Burma,” the State Department said. “The determination paves the way for the United States to support assistance to Burma through IFIs and to continue to support ongoing reform efforts.”

This statement would appear to back up the requirements of recent Congressional legislation which was signed into law by US President Barack Obama.

Such a determination is significant for Burma, as prior to this legislation, the US executive directors at international financial institutions, including the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank, did not vote in support of any projects or programs for Burma that required a board decision.

“This determination will enable the United States to vote on assistance to Burma during the World Bank’s upcoming board meetings in early November,” the State Department said, adding that this will also provide the US with the ability to shape the policies and activities of the IFIs in a way that advances reform, good governance, transparency, and accountability in Burma.

“The United States supports the Burmese government’s ongoing reform efforts, and believes the IFIs have a critical role to play in helping promote stronger institutions to ensure sound economic policy and good governance in Burma,” the State Department said. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank recently opened their offices in Burma.

By making such a determination, the US Secretary of State ignored the concerns of the human rights bodies, who argued that this is not the right time to lift sanctions on Burma.

“Although the United States and many governments in Europe and Asia have continuously praised President Thein Sein for the changes taken place in Burma, these are half-way measures in some areas as well as areas that haven’t changed at all,” said Aung Din, a former political prisoner and executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, in a recent statement.
“These changes are not secure and irreversible yet, and it is the major reason for the argument made by key stakeholders of Burma, ethnic nationalities, civil society organizations and democracy activists who all request the United States to maintain the remaining sanctions. However, their voices are simply ignored,” Aung Din said.

According to Aung Din, the absence of sanctions removes the motivation for the government to engage in further and serious negotiations with ethnic groups as well as political reform leading towards the 2015 election.