Burma to privatise 90% of industry

The recent shake-up of Burma’s economy that has seen swathes of state-owned industry sold to private enterprise looks set to continue unabated.

Up to 90 percent of country’s various business sectors will eventually be privatised, with the government claiming it will only hold on to a handful of industries, the domestic Weekly Eleven news journal reported.

The announcement comes two months after Burma held its first elections in 20 years, with the ruling junta promising that a civilian government would take the reins.

“Up to 90 percent of state-owned industry will be transferred to the private sector as the country makes it transformation to democracy,” the journal quoted minister of industry, Khin Maung Kyaw, as saying. “This doesn’t happen only in Myanmar [Burma]; other democratic countries also use the same practice.”

How far the junta will go to relinquish its grip on the country’s economy is a matter of debate: so far much of the sale has gone to businessmen thought to be close to the generals, and whose tit-for-tat relationship with Burma’s political elite has carried with it outright favouritism.

Many of the country’s most powerful tycoons supported, and even stood as candidates for, the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won nearly 80 percent of the vote in the 7 November elections.

One of these is Khin Shwe, whose daughter is married to the son of the junta’s recently-retired third-in-command, Shwe Mann, and who owns the Zaykabar Company.

Victorious in his Rangoon constituency, Khin Shwe has also been selected to head the Śāsana Noggaha Association, an organisation devoted to propagating Buddhist doctrine and which is believed to be aimed at accommodating the 20 million or so former members of the disbanded Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

Rumours have also circulated that Max Myanmar, which is owned by junta crony Zaw Zaw, will be rewarded contracts for the lucrative Tavoy port project in southern Tennasserim division.

On the other hand, those out of favour with the government have suffered: Yangon Airways, the only private airline not close to the regime, was forced to suspend its operations late last year, with an official from the aviation authority claiming it was a matter of the company’s policy, and not the condition of the planes.

Over the past year 110 state-owned businesses, 32 buildings, 246 petrol stations and land close the port area in Rangoon have been privatised, the Weekly Eleven report said.

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