70 percent of Burma property goes to junta cronies

Around 70 percent of property in Burma auctioned off to private enterprise in recent months has ended up in the hands of cronies of the ruling junta.

The Burmese government recently announced the sale of 115 national properties, including major shipping ports and airports. The majority of the remaining 30 percent of property has gone to foreign companies.

Rumours are circulating that the Rangoon Ministers’ Office, where independence hero Aung San was assassinated in 1947, has been sold to a foreign company, although it is not known whom.

A businessman in Rangoon said that local companies not close to the government can only bid for small properties which are unlikely to generate much revenue.

“[The junta] took the [promising properties] off the bidding list. Those are only opened for the big guys and foreign companies but it is impossible for an ordinary business owner to enter the bid,” he said.

“The big companies are not only close [to the ruling generals]; in fact [the generals] also owned shares in these companies. So there is nothing we can do.”

He added that authorities are selling bidding forms for 25,000 kyat ($US25) for each property. Among those being auctioned off are formerly private-owned properties nationalised by the Ne Win government in 1964.

An economist said that the current government was privatizing industry to show that Burma is heading towards a market economy. In reality, however, this will leave nothing for the country when a next [elected] civilian government comes to power.

“The international community and those who don’t have the technical knowledge may think the government is now carrying out the privatisation process in favour of private businesses,” he said.

“At least those properties that were nationalised could be regarded as belonging to the public, but now they are completely in the hands of the companies close to the government.”

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