05/17/2013, 00.00
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Myanmar, least "transparent" country in the world's oil and gas sector

A US-based institute reports the finding. Natural resource earnings are hard to trace because they are often hidden away by members of the military leadership. In terms of corruption, the Myanmar government is worst than those of nations like Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe. How money is spent and where it ends up remains a mystery.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A just-released study examining transparency in the global natural resources sector, including oil and gas, has found that Myanmar holds the worst record for disclosure and accountability out of 58 nations examined with billions of dollars finding their way into the pockets of members of the former military junta, who hide them in secret bank accounts in foreign tax havens.

The survey, conducted by the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), ranked Myanmar's transparency levels lower than Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe, all of which are infamous for their blatantly corrupt extractive sectors.

RWI is a non-profit policy institute based in the United States with offices in Africa and Europe. Its aim is to promote "the effective, transparent and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good."

RWI's study looked at a list of indicators, including the level of information that governments share with the general public about natural resource projects, as well as the transparency with which funds are distributed.

Myanmar's poor showing on the annual index is due to the government's consistent refusal to disclose even basic information about large-scale resources projects. This includes the pro-reform government of President Thein Sein, which has failed to follow international standards and guidelines.

According to RWI, in Myanmar "almost no information is available on the management of the extractive sector. Myanmar has no freedom of information law, and environmental and social impact assessments are not required."

At present, billions of dollars in revenue are flowing from the Yadana and Yetagun natural gas pipelines into the pockets of the military (many of whom are from the old regime's strongman, Generalissimo Than Shwe).

Since 2006, the Myanmar government received more than US$ 19 billion from the sale of natural gas to Thailand. How this money was spent and where it ended up remains shrouded in mystery.

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