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Burma dreams "Poverty Alleviation' without stopping civil war

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Burma's President Thein Sein delivered an address at the opening ceremony of National Level Workshop on "Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation' at Myanmar International Convention Centre in Nay Pyi Taw at 1 pm Friday(20 May), according to the state's newspaper the New Light of Myanmar.

Also present on the occasion were Vice- President Dr Sai Mauk Kham, Union Ministers, deputy ministers, Economic Ministers of Regions and States, departmental heads, economists and resource persons, responsible persons of social organizations and guests.

Dr Myint, economics consultant of the president, chaired over the workshop at which six papers were submitted by six researchers.

President Thein Sein delivered an opening address. In his address, Thein Sein said, "The world is facing many challenges such as financial crisis, climate change, food security and rise in demand for energy. For Myanmar, an agro-based country, development of the agricultural and livestock breeding sector of rural areas, climate change, food security, higher incomes of rural people and poverty alleviation are the issues we have to address with all seriousness."

He also said that the respective authorities need to hold talks with economic experts, organizations and departments to find out how to deal with such demanding task and what programmes have to lay down.

He also encouraged establishing cooperative system. But the system did not win public trust in Myanmar (Burma) because in the past, people were forced to participate in activities and corruption was out of control. Learning lessons from those events, citizens should support formation of cooperative societies with likeminded people, he said.

Burma remains one of the world's least developed countries, and was ranked 138 out of 182 countries in the 2010 UN's Human Development Index.  Burma is regularly along with the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index -- in 2009, Burma was ranked third from the bottom after Afghanistan and Somalia.

Burma (Myanmar) is one of Asia's poorest countries, reflected in its health indicators. It had the 44th highest infant mortality rate of the 193 countries listed by the UNICEF in its 2011 State of the World's Children report.

The Government Gazette released by the previous military junta says that 1.8 trillion kyat (about $2 billion at free market rates of exchange), or 23.6 per cent of the budget this year will go to the defense. The health sector, meanwhile, will get 99.5 billion kyat ($110 million), or 1.3 per cent of this budget year 2011-12. That means President Thein Sein's Union Government will spend less than $2 per head on public healthcare.

In comparison, the defense sector regularly takes the lion share of the annual budget. If the government really wants to lift the people's social standard or trim down poverty, it must reduce its defense spending first. Without external threats, the country should not pay out too much for the military. As a result, the economy has plummeted and unemployment rate goes up. At the same time, the hyper-inflation burst out as corruption takes place as a key player.

To most citizens, "Poverty Alleviation' should start fighting against the corruption or the practice of bribery. And it is also necessary to trim down the defense spending.

"In Myanmar, the rural people who make up about 70% of the population are the main working force, and the majority of them engage in agricultural and livestock farming. Therefore, boosting production of goods and economic development of rural areas are a vehicle for national economic growth. Only with economic development of the rural areas, can poverty be alleviated," the President said in his speech.

However, on the other hand, Burma Army confiscated thousand acres of lands belonging to the local civilians for military reasons. The villagers work on these lands for generations to sustain a livelihood based on farming rice and vegetables. In all confiscation process, farmers receive no compensation and do not have opportunity to complain for their rights.

So, President Thein Sein must order the army to stop land confiscating activities and restore law and order as a necessary while running "Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation' project.

Moreover, Thein Sein also emphasized in an address at 1/2011-Meeting on 23 April that peace and stability should be essential in building a developed country

"If the local people realize government's goodwill policies and objectives and join hands together for development of their own region, all measures for progress of border areas and national races will be successful," he said.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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