IFIs must “engage with the Burmese people”

5 April 2012

Over 20 civil society groups from Burma, also known as Myanmar, have written to the heads of the IMF and World Bank requesting that the IFIs involve grass roots actors in their newly revived activities in the country and that their operational policies “guarantee maximum transparency, accountability, social inclusiveness and safeguards”. International NGO Human Rights Watch has also written to Bank president Robert Zoellick calling on the Bank to “actively engage with the Burmese people” and ensure that “no one who engages with the Bank shall face reprisals”.

Rick Rowden, researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine that the Burmese government should give “a cold shoulder” to the Washington Consensus policies advocated by the IMF, warning that IMF fiscal restraint policies may prevent Burma from making “long-term capital investments that are needed to build up the underlying transportation, health, and education infrastructure upon which future productivity depends”. He added that the Washington Consensus policy of rapidly lowering trade protections would threaten “to block [Burma’s] future industrial development”, concluding that “if Burma wishes to pursue an industrialization-based development model … its leaders should carefully consider what roles the state will need to play in enabling [small and medium enterprises] to grow into larger and more competitive firms, and take steps to preserve its policy space.”