‘Third Phase of Reform’ Tackles Govt Corruption, President Says

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 26 December 2012

RANGOON—In a speech broadcast nationwide, Burma’s President Thein Sein on Wednesday announced “a third phase of reform” that would tackle long-standing corruption within the government. He strongly criticized officials who operated without transparency and urged them “to avoid corruption to make way for good governance.”

In his speech to cabinet members, including union ministers, chief ministers of regional states and divisions and heads of government departments, Thein Sein said that corruption persisted among government officials and should be stamped out.

“We’ve found out that departments at various levels of [government] don’t listen to people’s voices and there’s no transparency in what they are doing,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “So, reforms are needed from the grassroots to the union [national] levels.”

“Reforms in management of governmental organizations will be carried out as the third phase of our reform strategy for the development of the country,” the president said in the speech, which was broadcast live on national television and radio.

The first phase of Burma’s far-reaching changes focuses on political reform and national reconciliation, while the second reform phase deals with improving the nation’s economy, Thein Sein said, adding that the third phase would now commence.

“Good governance is still very weak in Myanmar, according to international standards,” he said. “To get achievement in our implementation, management of governing mechanisms must be effective.”

He called on officials “to avoid corruption to make way for good governance and ask for public collaboration in fighting against dishonesty.”

The president’s remarks offered a rare acknowledgement of government corruption in Burma—something that would have been unthinkable under the previous military regime.

His speech, however, did not outline any specific punishment for corrupt officials or a detailed action plan for reducing government corruption.

Since he took office 19 months ago, the former general turned reformist president has introduced measures to strengthen democracy and the economy, setting policies on politics and public-centered socioeconomic reforms.

On Wednesday he also highlighted some economic policy measures taken this year, such as the introduction of an open foreign currency exchange policy, the new foreign investment law and the relaxation of trade regulations.

The president admitted, however, that the country’s socioeconomic conditions are far behind those of other Southeast Asian countries, adding that only carefully planned policies and project could lift the country to a higher living standard.

“I want to urge you to try to have a tangible improvement in our people’s economy from now on,” he said, adding that the global economic downturn had stifled the pace of economic growth in Burma, while the country was also waiting for the lifting of remaining economic sanctions.