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More pain not gain in cost over-run

Subject: More pain not gain in cost over-runs! 

Bangkok Post Oct 30, 1996

More pain not gain in cost over-runs 

Slorc Economic Development Planning Minister David Abel held an emergency
press conference on Aug 2 to respond to two economic reports on Burma
published by the US Embassy in Rangoon ("Burma Debate", July/Aug 1996). Gen
Abel proudly stated that actual foreign investments in Burma far exceed the
amount announced when the agreements were signed.

He cited two examples. Traders Hotel was estimated to cost $50 million. They
have spent $85 million and the hotel is not yet complete. Sedona Hotel was
also estimated to cost $50 million. They have spent $90 million so far. Gen
Abel was so proud that foreign investors were spending more money than their
original estimates.

This clearly shows Gen Abel has zero training in economics, finance and
investment management. Traders Hotel has a 70 percent cost over-run; Sedona
Hotel had a 80 percent cost over-run. These type of cost over-runs are
financial disasters. This is something to be ashamed about. Not something to
be proud about. The bottom line is that Burma is a very expensive place to
do business due to corruption and poor infrastructure. The "Far Eastern
Economic Review" (Aug 15) states that foreigners experience "more pain than
gain" in investing in Burma.

Gen Abel, unlike Slorc Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw, is a decent individual. He
received his military training in England and speaks excellent English. But
he has zero training in economics, finance and investments. It will soon
become obvious to foreign investors that without trained economic expertise
to guide the economic development of Burma, Slorc's attempt at an "economic
take-off" will end in a crash landing.

The conditional sanctions legislation signed into law by President Clinton
on Oct 1 will, for all practical purposes, stop new American investment in
Burma. But what is more effective is the Selective Purchasing Laws passed by
the Magnificent Seven (the State of Massachusetts and six cities including
San Francisco). Selective Purchasing Laws are an "equal opportunity"
boycott. It penalises both American and foreign (mainly Asian) firms that
are financing the military occupation of Burma. Selective purchasing
boycotts are the corporate version of Chairman Mao's guerrilla war.

I have been privately informed that foreign investors have quietly suspended
$1 billion in announced investments due to the lack of a political
settlement in Burma. Sooner or later, Unocal will experience 70-80 percent
cost over-runs on its $1.2 billion natural gas pipeline to Thailand and will
be forced to suspend this project. If we force the suspension of two-thirds
of announced investments in Burma, we will facilitate political change in Burma.

"Yangon under Siege" read the headline of an eight-page newsletter "Myanmar
Business" published by Slorc apologist Ashook Nath in the Philippines. It is
becoming obvious even to hard-line Slorc supporters that Slorc's days are

 Myint Thein 

It's time all nations took a stand

The news report that Thailand would prefer to keep Burma as an observer in
Asean should be good news for all pro-democracy people.

While Malaysia is trying to lobby support for Burma's early entry to Asean,
Thailand has announced she would like to see Burma support the aspirations
of her people. Malaysia's anxiousness is understandable as Malaysians have
invested millions of dollars in Burma. Perhaps Malaysia wants to ensure they
get a good return for their investment.

Meanwhile, UN and EU should not offer training or development in the fields
of tourism, communications, highways, etc, until Burma's human rights
record is set right. However, Burma could receive aid in the form of food
and health supplies which directly have an effect on the people.

It's time all nations, Asean, the EU and the UN stand together and tell the
military rulers that they should give the people the right to govern.

Tilak Fernando