Finding Freedom Podcast: Are we really equal?
Europe has seen many improvements in GENDER EQUALITY in recent years. Topic is not a taboo even in some less developed democracies. However, lack of equality between women and men in politic...
Myanmarâ€˜s first elections in 20 years were held on November 7, 2010. The military junta barely left the outcome to chance. The 2008 Constitution ensures one quarter of the 664 parliamentary seats are reserved for the army. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (an army proxy) secured 76.5 percent of the votes for the remaining 498 seats. Observers reported widespread electoral malfeasance during the elections, which cemented the armyâ€˜s considerable sway over the nominally civilian government. However, recent developments suggest space for political participation and pluralism is gradually opening up. The formerly banned National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmarâ€˜s most prominent advocate of multi-party democracy, was allowed to re-register and will
contest in the upcoming by-elections. During 2011, the government freed a considerable number of political prisoners and enacted a law which, for the first time, allows peaceful political protests.
The army continues to be the all-powerful veto player in the political system of Myanmar.
Although the Burmese constitution provides for freedom of the press, the country's media environment continues to be restricted. In the run-up to the 2010 elections, media were subject to censorship. However, newspapers were allowed to interview and quote candidates, a freedom hitherto unknown. Since May 2011, print media no longer have to submit articles prior to publication about non-political issues (such as sports or leisure) to the Press Scrutiny Board. Newspapers are testing the boundaries of their new freedom. For example, the term "prisoners of conscience" is now allowed by the Press Scrutiny Board, along with calls for releases. Articles about and images of Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD are accepted, which was unthinkable until recently. Furthermore, censorship of
the internet has ended. Further progress seem likely.
No data available.
Corruption is still part of day-to-day business in Myanmar. Office holders often abuse their positions for private benefits; especially the judicial branch and bureaucracy are affected by corruption. The government makes no serious effort to fight corruption, and officials have no need to fear prosecution. Transparency International ranked Myanmar number 176 out of 178 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index 2010, which emphasises the severity of this problem.
The human rights situation in Myanmar continues to be problematic. Even though a considerable number of political prisoners was released last year and Burmese society seems to be enjoying some newly found liberties, the country's human rights standards are nowhere near those in western countries. Forced labour, child labour, the forcible recruitment of children as soldiers, and the displacement of whole villages happens on a frequent basis - primarily in areas populated by ethnic minorities. The army is accused of torture, murder, rape and arbitrary detention. The freedom of religion is not respected, either. Even though provided for in the 2008 constitution, Christians and other religious minorities are often discriminated against.
Real estate property and intellectual property are not protected. As a consequence, competition between economic actors is low. The industry is dominated by state-owned enterprises. Other businesses are more or less controlled by businessmen with ties to the army. Investors who are in conflict with local governments or whose businesses have been illegally expropriated have little chance of compensation.
Government expenditures (including consumption and transfer payments) are low, equal to roughly eight percent of the GDP. This is not due to restraints by the government, but rather because of a general lack of capacity.
With top income and corporate tax rates of 30 percent, Myanmar has moderately high tax rates. The overall tax revenue equals three percent of the GDP.
Loans are predominantly granted for government projects, with access to credit for private entrepreneurs being constrained. The government controls banking through state- owned institutions. Although there are several private and some foreign banks, opaque regulations create a hostile financial climate. The labour market is subject to heavy state intervention. Regulations regarding wage rates and working hours are not always observed. However, a new law signed in October 2011 brings to an end the 1962 Trade Unions Act, which banned all trade unions in Myanmar. The bill allows the formation of unions with a minimum size of 30 people, and allows Burmese workers to legally go on strike provided they do not impede transport infrastructure, or threaten security. Unclear laws and
regulations restrict private businesses. Inconsistent law enforcement further impedes the development of the private sector.
Myanmar's foreign trade is more or less limited to the export of natural gas, agricultural products, gem stones and timber. Gas exports are managed by the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. The export of agricultural products is subject to frequent state intervention. The freedom of private entrepreneurs to engage in international trade is restricted by import/export bans and regulations; high taxes and fees; complicated permit and licensing requirements; frequent policy changes; corruption; and Western sanctions regarding trade in some goods.