The management of successive Burmese governments in recent decades could easily be rated as poor. The country has been under a dictatorship and all of the nation’s foreign revenues have been controlled and manipulated by the military’s top brass families and their cronies. As a result the economy has just been going downhill. Burma is still one of the world’s poorest countries. People are drowning in deep poverty with no food to eat, no clothes to put on, and no place to stay.
In order to get out of such abysmal circumstances, the current Thein Sein government recently declared an eight-step poverty reduction program. Government officials publicly stated that the government alone will not be able to implement such a program and called for the cooperation of the people. They invited the people to join hands in the endeavor. There is no doubt that the people of Burma, from all walks of life, will cordially welcome such an invitation. However, the program has its own flaws and at least a few actions need to be taken in order for the program to be successful. Here are some that need to be implemented if the government sincerely wants to reduce poverty in Arakan.
Arakan is blessed with natural resources for development. However, it is the second poorest state among the 14 states and divisions in Burma. In order to reduce poverty in Arakan, the authorities must work on it practically rather than paying lip service. The number of military brigades that are nothing but a burden to the Arakanese must be reduced. All the agricultural land that was unlawfully confiscated by the army must be returned to the rightful owners. All the contractual farming permits issued by the army for the confiscated land must be abolished. All of the collection of tolls at the army, navy, and police checkpoints must be stopped right away. All the government leases solely given to government cronies to freely exploit the sea and waterways of Arakan for their own economic benefit must be ended. Arakanese are the sole owners of their waters and they should have a right to make a living on them.
Along with open economic policies, the free market system must be allowed to flourish. Especially, rice trading must be allowed to take place across Arakan at the will of the business owners. Tolls and taxes levied on the Arakanese at places such as markets, bridges, piers, and bus stations are a big burden to the businesses and must be strictly prohibited. To stimulate the development of industry, 24/7 electricity must be provided to both rural and urban areas using the energy resources found in Arakan. Half of all the revenues gained from exporting Arakanese energy resources abroad must be used for the development of Arakan. The current government must abolish the centralized economic policies and open up business opportunities that will promote the free market system and benefit Arakan.
The eight-step poverty reduction program of the current Thein Sein government could be accepted in principle. However, to effectively address the problems Arakanese are facing today, the aforementioned actions must be taken. The poverty reduction program must be able to mitigate the serious challenges that people are dealing with every day. No matter how grand the policies may be, if they can not solve the fundamental problems that people are facing, any attempt to reduce poverty would just be a waste of time and resources.