Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ominous Signs of Damage Caused By Incompetent Government

Reading this morning about the maladministration of Myanmar brought home to me the potential for abuse that incompetent government commits. As we watch the present executive branch degenerate into a ragtag bunch of political hacks such as FEMA director Brown of Katrina infamy, we need to be aware that this isn't petty theft. It is a harbinger of real dangers for this country.

In the case of Myanmar, the people have no choice but to try overthrowing their government, as they are literally starving. In our case, we still can activate real involvement in our government before it comes to that state. It can't be accomplished, though, without direct involvement. Protests are one way, blogs are another, involving friends is another, and getting out voters who are bright enough to see what's happening is a really good way.

In Myanmar, the government constituted itself of criminals who built up a defense bulwark it is taking street fighting to overcome.

When the military took power in 1962, then-military strongman Ne Win decided to take the country down an isolationist path, the "Burmese Way to Socialism" as it was called, which stressed self-sufficiency, and called for the nationalisation of almost all private companies.

Military officers took over these companies, as well as many civil service positions. It was their mismanagement that led to chronic inflation and near economic collapse by 1988, and the mass protests that came close to overthrowing the government at that time.

After that, the military tried opening up the economy to market forces and foreign investment, but it has never been willing to release its grip on crucial areas of the economy:

Imports and exports all require licenses, confronting entrepreneurs with mountains of red tape, and opening opportunities for corruption.

The trade in rice is entirely controlled by military-connected companies.

Internal transport is hobbled by poor infrastructure and frequent military bans on access to troubled areas.

Many commodities are subsidised, but available in very limited quantities.
There is an official exchange rate for the local currency, the kyat, which is 200 times lower than the black market rate.

Add to that the fact that more than half the annual budget goes to the armed forces, and that Burma is subject to strict sanctions by the United States and the European Union, and it has proved impossible for Burma to lift itself out of poverty.

The construction of a secretive new capital city since 2005, hacked out of the bush 400km (249 miles) north of Rangoon, must have added considerably to the government's financial difficulties, although it has given no figures for how much this mega-project is costing.

Note that the government began by taking over civil service positions - such as has occurred in our Justice Department where laws were ignored, displaced, or violated and the competent, ethical staff departed en masse.

More than half of th annual budget goes to the armed forces in Myanmar, while our mounting expenses to execute the president's war are not even acknowledged, many kept off budget.

These are things that we have to watch over, and combat, and report.

We don't want to be governed from the new Eagles Nest in Paraguay.

Addendum: Tonight I watched press footage of White House press person Dana Perino decrying the junta in Myanmar detaining innocents and holding them without representation for long periods of time. These people are either so dissociative they're certifiable, or they're beyond cynical.

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