Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The basket case that is Burma

If you were wondering what kind of conditions had reduced the people of Myanmar (also known as Burma...) to the kind of desperation that triggered the recent protests, the BBC recently did a good profile, which included the following snippets:
  • The Burmese military, which took over in the coup of 1962, have a complete stranglehold over almost all aspects of the economy, inlcuding internal transport, imports and exports, the rice trade and the civil service.
  • More than half of the country's annual budget goes on the armed forces.
  • The military live in a privileged, parallel world, competely removed from the squalor of the rest of the population, and many of the upper echelons of the armed forces are immensely rich.
  • Average income is around $300 a year, one of the lowest in the world (just for comparison, Canada and Western Europe's is around $40,000).
  • Health spending is around 2.8% (compared to a world average of 10.2%).
  • The black market rate for the local currency, the kyat, is 200 times the official rate.
  • The country is still subject to strict economic sanctions by the US and the European Union.
  • This August 15th, gas prices rose by 500% overnight and diesel prices over 100%, completely without warning, which more or less paralyzed the country and which was one of the main impetuses for the current protests.
Now, if they only had some oil, I'm sure the Americans would have been much more sympathetic to their plight...

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