Investment tops $30bn as S Korea climbs

Burma’s energy sector has generated the bulk of capital for the military regime as figures show that total foreign investment in the country has now topped the $US30 billion mark.

Nearly $US13.5 billion has been pumped into the oil and gas sector, accounting for nearly half of the $US31.957 billion accrued by the junta since it opened to investment in 1988, the Biweekly Eleven journal said.

Trailing oil and gas is electric power, which has attracted $US11.3 billion, followed by $US2.4 billion for mining and $US1.6 billion in the manufacturing sector. Despite a lengthy campaign to boycott tourism to Burma, the industry has garnered $US1 billion.

The first half of 2010 saw the sharpest climb in foreign investment, largely attributable to the $US8 billion that China poured into the country, $US5 billion of which went to hydropower and the remaining majority to oil and gas.

That figure accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total amount Beijing has pumped into Burma over the past two decades, and despite Thailand being the biggest investor to date, the powerhouse to the north is rapidly becoming the ruling junta’s key economic crutch.

China’s economy expanded 9.6 percent in the third quarter of 2010, and in September Beijing broke ground on its end of the 770-kilometre Shwe dual pipeline that will take oil and gas from Burma’s western coast to Yunnan province.

The project is set to net the Burmese junta $US30 billion over the next 30 years, and could transport up to 22 million tons of African and Middle Eastern oil offloaded in the Bay of Bengal to the developing province.

These sizeable investments, analysts say, are dampening the impact of Western sanctions on Burma that have achieved little in the face of warming economic relations between the junta and its neighbours.

South Korea is also rising up the ranks, and is now thought to be the country’s fourth largest investor. It recently poured around $US62 million dollars into a rubber plantation in Burma’s western Arakan state, the first investment it has made into the country’s agriculture sector this decade.

Despite Burma once boasting the world’s largest output of rice, which peaked at 3.4 million tonnes in 1934, it exported only 250,000 tonnes of rice in the first six months of this year. Its agriculture sector has steadily dwindled since military rule began in 1962, and has attracted only $US96.35 million since 1988.

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