YANGON—Myanmar urgently needs to combat illicit trade, particularly in the areas of logging, mining, human trafficking and consumer goods, the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) said after the country placed near the bottom of a global index on illicit trade.
Myanmar ranked 82nd out of 84 countries—followed only by Iraq and Libya—in the global index on illicit trade compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Illicit trade continues to thrive in Myanmar, undermining legitimate businesses and costing the government billions of dollars of revenue.
At the Anti-Illicit Trade Forum 2018 hosted by EuroCham Myanmar on Wednesday in Naypyitaw, anti-corruption experts, government officials and industry stakeholders discussed ways of strengthening Myanmar’s efforts to fight illicit trade, as well as needed legal reforms and the problem of slack border controls.
TRACIT director-general Jeffrey Hardy said Myanmar’s poor showing on the index pointed to inadequate structural defenses against illicit trade. He urged the government to work more closely with neighboring countries to address immediate cross-border illicit trade issues.
According to the EIU’s report, Myanmar’s commitment to illicit trade-related treaties is very low. Moreover, the country lacks effective intellectual property protections, amid generally poor law enforcement in the region.
As more EU companies do business in Myanmar, many EU investment firms are making a serious effort to tackle illicit trade, especially in the consumer goods sector. According to the Brewers Association of Myanmar, illicit trade is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry.
Despite the government’s efforts to combat smuggling, illegal border trade remains largely uncontrolled in Shan and Kayin states, according to a tax official. Myanmar is home to the third-largest illegal wildlife trade in the world. And according to the London-based Environment Investigation Agency, the illegal timber trade across Myanmar’s border with China is worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The group estimates that Myanmar has already lost 19 percent of its forestland.
U Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said illegal trade was flourishing in the country. He said the group had sent recommendations to the government on how to tackle the problem.
“The government faces many challenges fighting illegal trade, especially on the Kachin and Shan state borders,” he said.
In a recent survey by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, business community members said the government’s efforts to fight illegal trade were ineffective and insufficient. Taxes are unreasonably high while illegal trade is out of control on the ground, the participating businesspeople said.