USA proposes $75.4 million aid to Myanmar
18 May 2013
Press Trust of India
WASHINGTON, 18 MAY: To encourage the Myanmar government to continue with its reforms, the USA has proposed $75.4 million for fiscal 2014 in aid to the South East Asian country, a substantial increase of $28.8 million from 2012.
However, some US lawmakers have expressed concerns over such a decision by the Obama administration arguing that this increase in US aid to Myanmar is premature given the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in the country for past several months and continued detention of political prisoners.
“While, we have seen tremendous progress over the course of only two years, Myanmar is fraught with ongoing violence in the ethnic areas which, in many cases, is being perpetrated by the Myanmarese military,” said Congressman Steve Chabot, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.
Mr Chabot and other lawmakers also opposed the idea of giving any military aid to Myanmar at this point of time. “I'm aware that the administration is considering providing military assistance to Myanmar. I believe, with the slow moving reform process and numerous human rights issues, providing military aid is probably premature and may face considerable opposition in this Congress,” Mr Chabot said.
Acknowledging the reforms going on in the country, Mr Chabot said that the visit of Burmese president Thein Sein was premature. “I think President Thein Sein's visit to the White House next week is perhaps a bit premature, while we have seen advances that is too early, in my view, to proclaim a new day in Myanmar,” Mr Chabot said.
Joseph Y Yun, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told lawmakers that for the fiscal 2014 the budgetary request expands bilateral funding for Myanmar to $75. 4 million, an increase of $28.8 million from fiscal 2012.
“The USA is supporting a historic political and economic transition in Myanmar and is taking an active role in a country in which we are seeing a great shift with regard to respect for human rights and good governance.
Although many challenges remain in Myanmar, the country's nascent transformation demonstrates the possibility for significant change that exists in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
Noting that the budget request for Myanmar is a substantial increase above the fiscal 2012 level, Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera said additional funds will support the country's democratic gains following the dramatic political gains of the past two years.
“The funding will also address humanitarian needs both within and across the Burma's borders, as well as promote national reconciliation of vital issue given to ongoing ethnic conflicts,” he said.
Nisha Biswal, Assistant Administrator USAID, said the USA is looking at more comprehensively how it can support reform and build capacity in that country whether it's through the provision of technical assistance.
Ms Biswal told lawmakers that the USA is not providing any funds through the government of Myanmar.
“We don't believe they have the systems right now to provide the kind of assurance as in accountability and transparency that we would require, nor have we seen sufficient progress at this point for us to put resources directly into that. But we are providing technical assistance to reform minded ministries in Myanmar to help build those transparent systems that will enable down the road if the situation were not for us to be able to support directly,” she said.
Ms Biswal also said the USA is not putting money into Myanmar because it is trying to reward a government. “We're trying to build a relationship with the people that we think have, you know, important needs that we can address,” she argued.