By Chan Mya Htwe | Wednesday, 01 March 2017
The Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Centre (ENAC) (Union of Burma), has released a report recommending greater government emphasis on the possession, management, share of revenues and impact of the country’s natural resources during the second 21st Panglong Conference.
“After the 21st Panglong Conference is concluded, there will be another scheduled discussion relating specifically to natural resources. We released this report to support all the people involved in this discussion,” said ENAC’s executive director Zo Thone Mone.
“When it comes to discussing resources – who has the right to possess it, who is supposed to manage it, how will it be shared out and what is the impact – are matters to discuss. So we conducted research focusing on these matters,” he said.
The report, which was released on February 23, was based on a survey conducted at natural gas fields in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu and jade mines in Kachin State’s Hpakant.
Politics and security matters are pivotal topics in the peace talks, but the peace process will also need to pay a greater importance to natural resources management, the report said.
Due to armed conflicts and instability in ethnic minority areas which are rich in resources, it has been challenging to properly manage natural resource extraction.
Therefore, the issue of natural resources was included for discussion at the Union Peace Conference. The report noted that if any agreements can be reached then it would immensely benefit the ethnic regions and developments around the whole of Myanmar.
Additionally, the right steps can then be taken to manage any damage done on the livelihoods of people and on the environment due to the possession, management, distribution of the income and extraction of natural resources.
The report said that all of these points and features would be added into either the Union or regional constitution, and carried out.
“Any laws which prove beneficial to the public should be amended. The current government needs to consider natural resources in addition to their peace talks. I haven’t heard any such discussion till now,” said U Soe Nyunt Lwin from ENAC’s Board of Directors.
“More importantly, these discussions should arrive to a conclusion where everyone agrees or is satisfied,” he said.
He urged the current government to divert from their present course, adding that many who have been involved in talks with the government on the issue of natural resources have seen “the current stand of the government as a regression”.
He further remarked that plans on whether to find or ignore other sources of funds for regions rich in natural resources would rest on the government, the legislative sessions, and actions of the government ministries.
According to the Natural Resource Revenue Management Act in Myanmar, the income from natural resources is not allocated to the regions and divisions where the revenue is collected. The revenue from natural resources, together with collected revenues from other sectors, will be added to the state budget and will be apportioned according to the developmental needs of each region.
As Kachin State is rich in natural resources, the revenue contributed by the state is relatively high. Thus, there are talks that regions in Kachin State should be entitled to a higher percentage of the collected revenue.
The interview reports from the research trip stated that government officials in Kachin State should ask for the resident’s opinions before allocating the tax revenue, and that the allocation system and amount should be considered beforehand although it is still early to make decisions on revenue sharing due to political reasons.
The report also mentioned that all regional leaders prefer to have a viable and reasonable allocating system which includes the amount of profit revenue creditable to Kachin State.
According to the report, it is preferred that profits from Rakhine’s natural resources be allocated by the Rakhine regional government to the Union government and other less developing regions, rather than the Union government allocating the revenue to Rakhine and other states.
There are talks among Rakhine people that Rakhine State should receive 70 percent, or nothing less than 50pc, of the revenue while the Union government should receive 30pc, the report mentioned.
The officials from ENAC said that there are several suggestions regarding the allocation of the natural resource revenue in the Rakhine region. They also noted that the regions rich in natural resources are in a state of poverty, and it should not be this way.
It is compulsory to deliver the facts from ENAC and other organisations’ reports to lawmakers and management teams. The reports will also be presented in the Panglong Conference to the 22 political parties.
– Translation by Zar Zar Soe, Kyaw Soe Htet and Swe Zin Moe