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Sarawak Tribune Editorial

Sarawak Tribune can be contacted at http://www.jaring.my/tribune/ and it has
a letters-to-the-editors section online.

Sarawak Tribune
Wednesday 08 October, '97

Editorial: Helping Burma on its feet again

People and their perceptions are what make the difference in determining
whether a country will move forward or not. Once highly-regarded and
highly-respected for their agricultural industriousness across much of Asia
and for their intellectual capabilities, the new national ideology that it
had adopted after independence had forced Myanmar (formerly Burma) into a
long period of virtual isolation, resulting in economic decay. 

But the winds of change that have been blowing across much of Southeast
Asia, especially after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism
in the former Eastern Block and the success of economic reforms in China
initiated by former China's erstwhile strongman Deng Hsiao-ping, have been
so strong that they are beginning the sweep the rest of Asia, especially
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. 

On hindsight, the original Asean Six have been judged right to have admitted
the three Indo-Chinese States - Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar - and to consider
admitting next Cambodia, despite their different political ideologies and
stages of economic development. 

That Asean makes little distinction of all its varied characteristics
clearly suggests that it has the unique capacity to create a unity of
purpose in the great Asean diversity for the common good. Isolationist
policies are anathema to regional economic cooperation and progress. 

With its admission into the grouping, the onus is on Myanmar, under the
present military leadership, to take the first few steps that would
ultimately bring it into mainstream economic development within the region. 

Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister Lee Yock Suan put it all too clearly
when he said to achieve this, it was imperative for Yangon to create what he
called "an attractive and stable environment for foreign investments" and to
address the difficulties for foreigners to do business in that country. 

The shortage of hard currency and tight foreign exchange controls are some
of the issues that need to be urgently addressed as a prerequisite for
Myanmar to re-establish the required fundamentals for regional and
international trade. 

To entice investors from beyond the shores of Asean, the Myanmar government
must be prepared to improve on its image by taking positive steps towards an
eventual return to democracy, and improving on governmental transparency and
efficiency. Given fundamental prequisites for trade and investments, foreign
investors and businessmen from other Asean countries and elsewhere are more
than ready to adapt to local environment and exploit the hitherto largely
untapped resources of the country. 

A L T S E A N - B U R M A
*tel: [662] 275 1811/693 4515 *fax: [662] 693 4515 *e-mail: altsean@xxxxxxxxxx