Rangoon View 1st Week of March 2011- MoeMaKa Street Journalist

Why is the Present Parliament Being Called “15 Minutes Session?”

Although the first opening of parliament in 20 years started on the 31st of January this year, it still was not able to decide who would oversee which ministry. Matters to nominate and select ‘chief justice’ and chairperson for state commission only took about 15 minutes at the most.

Previous to this, the general public is not interested in the election, and do not think that this new parliament will be able to solve economic and social problems of long suffering people.

Now the public has the questions to ask the junta: Can this newly-convened parliament bring benefits to the country? Can the delegates considered as opposition debate openly in the session?

Why is the parliament held for only 15 minutes a day? Why have they [Junta] prolonged it? These are facts to think of. Some consider that Senior-General Than Shwe, who is really pulling the strings, has been instructing to do so. Perhaps, the chairpersons of the sessions have to obey the orders from superiors and cannot carry out things, unless told to do so by superiors.

The answers to these repeated questions is that the present military regime consider ruling the country under the name of SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) is more independent and can carry out its own interests before the new government of USDP comes into office with the new constitution.

The regime does not seem to hand its power over to USDP until at the end of this fiscal year on ‘March 31st’. As yet the list and duty of new Cabinet have not been announced and committees of parliament are not completely formed.

While the parliament is in delaying process, the junta has been rushing to sell the country’s natural resources, and to entrust state’s properties to regime-friendly enterprises. Government buildings and land have been sold by auction in two months in Rangoon, Mandalay, and other cities. Even confiscated vehicles and discarded cars of government’s departments are being auctioned. Winners of the auctions immediately have to carry out bidding, auctioning, and putting deposit within one or two weeks, though such previous actions usually take around one month.

These moves show that the military will sell state’s properties and natural resources as much as they can. Then they will take all the profits before new government takes power. It is obvious that they do not want to obey the constitution, drafted as they desire. The situation that the military regime dares not to face even a question from the opposition MP in the parliament overwhelmed by USDP, highlights how many unlawful activities it has committed.

Earning More Money by Queuing Up for Petrol Than by Transporting Passengers

It can be seen that the lines of cars around gas stations are getting longer and longer during these days in Rangoon and rural towns. Passenger buses wait in a line to buy petrol and resell it for profit on black market, instead of carrying travelers to the countryside or cities. Car owners said that they can get daily income by reselling petrol and they do not need to worry about their car damage.

It is not just passenger buses and taxis reselling petrol, but the luxury cars has join in on the queue. They patiently wait for hours to earn extra 10,000 kyat a day.

In Rangoon, the line of cars queuing up for petrol is getting longer and longer. The line of cars queuing up at the station, in front of Revolution Park on U Wi Sa Ya road, first starts from M3 food centre to ThanLwin Street, then goes along Dammha Zedi Street beyond former Wi Za Ya Cinema and finally reaches to the station again making a very long circle of cars. It can be seen that a car line long about one mile is waiting at the station on 56th Street of Botataung township. Ironically, it can be assumed that all the cars from Rangoon are not used for transport but to queue up for petrol.

Only after the privatization of fuel trading, said kind of business appeared. Economic experts remarked that it has happened, because the junta does not exercise market-led economy. Domestic oil-wells can produce 8 million gallons of petrol a year, and the petrol is distributed among private companies. However, the regime fixes the price at 2500 kyat per gallon, and it makes that black market arise. Some users said that it is the most realistic way that the sale and price of petrol should not be fixed, but decided by market itself. Some news journals carry that articles advising government to issue the consumer books which will show whether a user has already buy his quota or not.

While trying to go to market-based economy, this type of advice leading to the old quota system used till few years ago is not suitable for country.

It is not an easy job waiting in a line for several hours to buy petrol in the heat of afternoon’s sunlight. This also reflects lack of job opportunities in Burma.

Rumored Salary Raise and Consumer Goods Prices

Yearly, the rumor that salary will be raised usually spreads at the beginning of April after a fiscal year ends in March. Sometimes, rumor has it that pay will be increased 3 or 4 times. News began with the remarks that the government staff should be paid more salaries because even the new President and Prime ministers of States will earn five hundred thousand and three hundred thousand kyat respectively, due to the recent announcement.

As soon as that news appeared, the value of American dollar rose up to over 900 kyat from 830 kyat. Then, gold price followed it. Being affected by that news, other commodity and consumer goods prices went up, including FEC money, used only in Burma. Rice and cooking oil prices have also increased. The costs of rice have gone up by over 10 percent for the high transport charges caused by the restriction, which prohibits trucks from carrying extra weight.

Recently, housewives have complained of the rise in the consumer goods prices. The prices of Thai-made commodities are still high, because the main border-trade route between Myawaddy and Maesot has been closed down for so long.

Maybe, the military government can afford the raise in salaries by increasing taxation and selling state properties and natural resources. However, after the government’s plan to raise salaries, it is very likely to create inflation and serious social crises because of its absence of effective economic policies and stable laws allowing private companies do business independently.