USDP Criticizes Burma’s Economic Development as ‘Slow’

By Kyaw Hsu Mon & Htet Naing Zaw 21 November 2016

RANGOON — Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) chairman U Than Htay has criticized Burma’s economic development as “slow” during the last seven months of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s administration.

The statement came at a meeting at the party’s headquarters in Naypyidaw on Saturday to discuss the country’s economy. It was attended by USDP leaders, and ministers and deputy ministers from the previous USDP-led government, as well as academics.

“How businesses are operating, the commodity prices and the situation regarding the livelihoods [of the people] indicate how the country’s economy is [performing] at present,” said U Than Htay in his opening address at the meeting.

He argued that there has been a significant increase in crime recently due to economic hardship, highlighting it as a serious concern for the country.

The party chairman also warned against dependence on outside help.

“We should be aware of historical lessons that the tendency to rely on external assistance does not always work in state building,” said U Than Htay.

A total of six papers were submitted and discussed in the meeting. They focused on financial and monetary issues, national project implementation, trade and commodity prices, comparatives studies of foreign investment and citizens’ investment, and statistics and development.

The USDP said that the forum aimed to adopt a clear economic policy to address existing challenges and social and economic problems that people are facing.

U Than Htay suggested that the former USDP government had stabilized the country’s economy and kept commodity prices under control even in the face of political and economic sanctions.

“It is true that businesses are slow under the new government. [Some have blamed] the legacy of the previous government for it. But it is also partly because of the mismanagement of the new government. And we should welcome a major opposition party trying to address economic problems on its own,” said former Lower House lawmaker U Ye Htun.

In late October, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Kyaw Win—Union Minister for National Planning and Finance—said in a meeting with development partners in Naypyidaw that the country’s economic development has not proceeded at the pace hoped for by the new government.

“I agree that economic development during the last six months has been slow. We now are inviting investors and promise it is secure to work here in Burma,” the State Counselor said in the October meeting.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explained that the government would develop a skilled work force in the country to promote economic growth. She added that adherence to the rule of law would also play a key role in Burma’s development.

U Ye Min Oo, a member of the NLD’s economic committee, told The Irrawaddy that the USDP chairman would not necessarily be aware of what is happening within the government and the NLD regarding economic development, and that their perspective comes from being an opposition party.

“How can he prove that the country’s economy is slow? He wouldn’t know what is happening inside [the NLD administration]. The country’s economy has been falling since 2014,” U Ye Min Oo said.

In defense of the NLD government, he highlighted the approval of the new investment law, the lifting of US sanctions, and a promise of US$8 billion in Japanese aid to Burma.

“It will take time to develop. We need to prepare for it—it will not change within a short time,” U Ye Min Oo said.

Commodity prices have increased as a result of the dollar exchange rate appreciating in recent days. It rose to 1,340 kyats on the black market on November 21.

U Myat Thin Aung, chairman of the Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, said that so far, the NLD government has done well regarding political reform, but that much more is needed in terms of economic development.

“Actually this November and December is the season of better economics, as it is the harvest season. But why is the situation is still weak? The government should have considered this,” he said.

“Burma’s economy depends on China. If [China] plays the market, it won’t be good,” U Myat Thin Aung added.