Myanmar Spring Chronicle – August 31 Scenes
MoeMaKa, September 01, 2023
Myanmar, a country with mismanagement
The sight of people queuing up at markets in the cities, i.e., the housewives and family members of the neighborhoods standing in line with empty water bottles or empty oil bottles in their hands as the relevant entrepreneurs and trade associations sell rice and edible oil at a low price, are scenes that have been seen for decades. Though it is less common in some periods, it’s not completely gone. After the military coup, similar scenes began to be seen in bits and pieces, and more were seen again this year. The story that the rise in the price of food products is due to greedy merchants is now widely heard again.
It must be said that there have been mismanagements in Myanmar for ages. It has been a long-standing story that entrepreneurs and traders are often blamed for the economic chaos caused by the mismanagement of those who have seized the power of the country.
During the military dictatorial regimes ruled by the BSPP (Burma Socialist Programme Party), SLORC (State Law and Restoration Council), and SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), committees for reduction and stabilization of commodity prices were formed and they pretended to sell oil, rice, meat, and fish at low prices in cooperative shops, markets, and neighborhood streets. Because they didn’t want to allow free competition for demand and supply, remove crony procedures that shut others out, change the policy for easy and clear import and export processes, and find a long-term solution as in the concept of economics, the stories that the price of goods has risen due to the exploits of entrepreneurs and speculators were spread among the public.
The scene of people queuing for minutes to hours on sunny or rainy days in order to buy 50 ticals of palm oil on the streets has become a daily sight. Recently, news emerged that the chairman of the Palm Oil Industry Association and some palm oil importers are being arrested and questioned by a special investigation department called the Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI). The palm oil import and distribution business has been a licensed business with a fixed profit throughout the SLORC and SPDC regimes, and Htoo Company enjoyed the privilege of having the right to import from abroad in conjunction with the military-owned businesses (Myanma Economic Holding Limited).
The fact that the public has to queue up to buy edible oil and rice is a problem that affects human dignity to a certain extent.
Under the current military council, in order to save the foreign currency needed to purchase military equipment, they are desperately trying to reduce palm oil and fuel oil imports. Due to the imbalance between imports and demand, the price of goods rises. Also, due to the international economic sanctions, the value of the currency fell and the price of goods rose. In addition to that, there is no free competition, and the import business is being restricted, making it difficult, so the prices are rising. The reasons for the rise in rice prices are the armed conflicts in the rice-growing regions of Sagaing, the armed attacks, the burning of villages, and the killings. As a result, the labor force is leaving for abroad, and there is a decrease in production capacity, which is also a reason for the increase in rice prices. The blockade of transportation routes between the place of production, the place of distribution of goods, and the place of delivery to consumers, and even if it is not blocked, the increase in taxes and extortions are other reasons for the increase in the price of rice and other food products. It is not wrong to say that the combination of the above factors is the cause of the rising prices of basic food products that the Myanmar people are currently facing. Among these factors, if we cannot remove the factors related to policy, interests, politics, and regional security, there is no reason to lower the price of goods.
Recently, the importers and distributors may be arrested for show and there may be signs of a temporary price drop. However, it is certain that the goal of price stability cannot be reached.
For consumers in Myanmar, commodity prices are rising, and it is becoming difficult to buy while employment opportunities and incomes are decreasing. In the lives of the people who are suffering between two blades, rises in commodity prices are still tolerable compared to being arrested, killed, or having their houses burned. But this livelihood crisis is something that the public suffers from every day. It can be concluded that these are the results of military dictatorships, or, in other words, dictatorial regimes that control power rather than the well-being of the people.