TCG mandate extended, critics question PONREPP
Friday, 06 March 2009 12:28
New Delhi (Mizzima) – The role of a United Nations-backed group assisting in reconstruction and recovery in Burma, following the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis, has been extended to another year for facilitating recovery work in the country.
The Tripartite Core Group was formed with representatives of the Burmese Government, the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to facilitate recovery and reconstruction work, after Burma was hit by Cyclone Nargis on May 2, 2008.
The extension of TCG’s role of facilitating recovery and reconstruction in the cyclone devastated areas in Burma came during the 14th ASEAN Summit in Thailand last week.
A statement by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers said they had agreed to extend the TCG’s mandate to July 2010, which the chairman of the TCG calls a reflection of the bloc’s confidence in TCG’s work.
“The extension given to the TCG, reflects ASEAN’s confidence that the mechanism is working efficiently in facilitating distribution and utilization of assistance from the international community to support the Government of the Union of Myanmar’s relief and recovery efforts,” Kyaw Thu, Chairman of TCG and Chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board of Burma, said.
The extension of the TCG mandate came after the TCG in February, launched a three-year Post-Nargis Response and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP), which claimed to provide a blueprint for the reconstruction of communities, devastated by the cyclone.
According to the PONREPP, the three-year medium-term recovery proposal would require USD 691 million and placed the TCG to be the basis for providing continued funding.
However, the Burma Economic Watch under the Economics Department of Australia’s Macquarie University said, the PONREPP was a “deeply disappointing document”.
“The recommendations set out in PONREPP, would condemn Burma, in the view of BEW, to a continuation of the policies and programmes, which have impoverished this once prosperous and hopeful country,” the BEW’s statement said.
In its brief review of PONREPP, the Australian economists, who have long observed Burma’s economy, said, among others, the document ignores the important role of individuals and their enterprises, but privileges the state, international agencies, and NGOs, as the primary vehicles for Burma’s medium-term reconstruction and development.
The group said the document also depicts a model of top-down system of working by presuming that for every reconstruction work, the state needs to get involved and give instructions.
“Top-down ‘solutions’ and a distrust that people are best placed to know their own interests, is PONREPP’s underlying and unrelenting theme,” the BEW said.
The review further added the PONREPP had no justification for seeking USD 691 million from the International Community, while exempting the Burmese junta’s foreign reserves, which BEW estimated at USD 3-4 billion, from being used for recovery work in the country.
“It is surely not unreasonable for taxpayers in donor countries to question why they are being asked to pay to safeguard the nest-egg set aside by Burma’s military leaders,” BEW said.
BEW further added, with Burma ranking as the second-most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International, and the junta’s corruption in distributing aid having caused concern in the aid “industry’, PONREPP made no mention of the endemic corruption in Burma.
“This is perhaps to be expected, given the make-up of the TCG itself, but it is an example of how the interests of the ‘lowest common denominator’ actor have determined much of PONREPP’s approach,” according to BEW.