By: Andrew Parker, Research Associate, PISA
Edited by: Suzanne Kelly-Lyall
Black, red, blue, purple, …no this is not a refresher on the defunct DHSadvisorysystem, rather, just a fewcolors singer Katy Perry has been seen sporting this year–8 in total. That’s about a month and a half per color. Think that’s rapid change? Have a look at recent events in Burma. On the heels of 50 years of military rule, President Thein Sein, a former military man himself, came to power in 2011 and has been enacting a flurry of unprecedented economic and political reforms ever since.
The government has released hundreds of politicalprisoners, eased censorship, engaged in talks with ethnic minority groups, and allowed the holding of parliamentaryby–elections in April that resulted in a landslide victory going to Aung San Su Kyi’s NLD party.
This month changes have continued at a dizzying pace with the easingofUStradesanctions and the formal reestablishment of US–Burmadiplomaticties. A quick glance at the government sponsored New Light of Myanmar shows image after image of foreign government delegations meeting with officials in the capital of Naypyedaw.
Another notable break from the past came when the government announced on July 18th its intentionforBurmatojointheExtractiveIndustriesTransparencyInitiative (EITI); which as the name suggests, is a global standard aimed at ensuring revenue transparency in extractive industries such as oil and natural gas. While it may take some time for Burma to meet the preliminary conditions for candidacy in EITI, this is clearly a positive step towards the equitable distribution of natural resource revenue. While reform is rapid fire in some areas it may not always lead to favorable outcomes – a recent NPR story highlights the unintended consequences of liberalizing the importation of cars.
No doubt challenges lie ahead for Burmese leaders, but if the reform agenda is carried out successfully, a new shade of Burma will hit the world stage soon. We can only hope that the changes taking place in Burma are more permanent than the hue of Ms. Perry’s mane.