Suu Kyi warns investors off Myanmar’s state oil & gas firm
GENEVA, June 14 – Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi urged foreign governments not to allow their companies to form joint ventures with the state-owned oil and gas company until it improved its business practices.
Suu Kyi, speaking to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva today, said: “The Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE)... with which all foreign participation in the energy sector takes place through joint venture arrangements, lacks both transparency and accountability at present.”
“The (Myanmar) government needs to apply internationally recognised standards such as the IMF code of good practices on fiscal transparency. Other countries could help by not allowing their own companies to partner MOGE unless it was signed up to such codes,” she said.
The hugely popular leader of Myanmar’s opposition is on her first visit to Europe in nearly a quarter of a century, fearful until now that if she left Myanmar, the junta whose rule she fought against for two decades would block her return.
Myanmar has granted Chinese state-owned oil firm CNPC oil and gas pipeline concessions that will enable Middle East energy supplies to a take short-cut on the route to China, cutting out the extra expense and journey time of using the Malacca Strait.
“Quite frankly none of us know what’s in those contracts, this is what I mean by lack of transparency in the country,” Suu Kyi said. “Lack of transparency leads to all kinds of suspicions that shore up trouble for the future.”
Asked about Chevron and Total, the big Western oil firms with investments in Myanmar, she said: “I have to say that I find that Total is a responsible investor in the country, even though there was a time when we did not think they should be encouraging the military regime by investing in Burma.
“They were sensitive to human rights and environmental issues and now that we’ve come to a point in time when we would like investors who are sensitive to such issues, I am certainly not going to persuade Chevron or Total to pull out.”
A day after the UN agency lifted its more than decade-old restrictions on Myanmar in recognition of progress, Suu Kyi received a standing ovation at the ILO’s annual ministerial conference, where she said foreign direct investment that created jobs should be invited.
As sanctions are lifted, investment in the country should be responsible and add to, rather than subtract from, the process of democratisation, she said.
“The reason why we have to be careful about the extractive industries is because what you extract doesn’t go back in, and secondly because they don’t provide as many jobs as some other industries, so we want to approach this with caution.
“Burma is a land with a lot of energy resources. We do not want to dissipate it. I would like to see a sound effective energy policy in Burma and this should be related to the kind of extractive investments that we invite in.”
She also said responsible foreign investment in agribusiness could be beneficial, as long as the right precautions are taken to protect smallholders. – Reuters