US approves $21m assistance to Myanmar

YANGON – The United States will provide an additional US$21 million (Bt730 million) in assistance to Myanmar, to promote economic growth and capacity building for long-term development in the country.

The initiative will support the government’s goal of tripling exports in five years; strengthen the ability of the government and the legal system to provide accountable and transparent oversight; and help modernise the agriculture sector which will be the driver of employment over the next 10 years, said Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser.

Rhodes was on his fifth visit to Myanmar last week.

He said more reforms were needed in the structure, legal and regulatory framework to make it easier for companies to invest. He also mentioned the possibility of a full lifting of sanctions against Myanmar, which have been an obstacle for US companies. Reinstatement of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) was also in sight.

“We may make changes in our sanctions, and big businesses are coming here, especially in Yangon where there is a highly educated young population. They are also creating space, making it easier for [business] people to start business here. In that area, the US can help,” he said.

Rhodes sees Myanmar as a potential market for American companies.

“Entrepreneurs always complain about our sanction policies. What they see is small-scale economic growth. A business employs 10 or 20 people. Over time, if you open up the space for that type of knowledge-based, innovation-based economic growth, then that can achieve much more.”

Last week, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi accepted US President Barack Obama’s invitation to visit the US.

Rhodes emphasised the US commitment to strengthen support for democratic consolidation, national reconciliation, and people-to-people engagement. The focus will be on helping President Htin Kyaw’s administration to establish the rule of law and strengthen the agricultural sector.

“Many people have sacrificed so much for change. Your success is in our interest. Our interest in Myanmar is for you to succeed. We are here to support that,” Rhodes said.

He stressed that given the high ratio of young population, he believed Myanmar people could take control of their own future. The first civilian government in decades is burdened with high expectations but, as seen in Indonesia, the process takes time. He said transparency would be a good start to smoothe communications with people.

In a public talk at Yangon University, Rhodes stressed the need to improve civilian-military relations to pave way for full civilian control over the military. He was pleased with the fact the civilian government and military were working together in developing the country, something vital for the successful transition. The next step should involve reconsideration of the number of parliamentary seats controlled by the military, he said.

 

Source: Myanmar Eleven

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