Burma: Improving Revenue Transparency and Civil Society Capacity

Issue: Training

Country: Myanmar (Burma)

During the period from 2008 through 2010, Revenue Watch has supported two groups in Burma in their effort to foster transparency in the country's extractive sectors, and build knowledge and capacity for local advocates working to help Burma's citizens obtain a greater benefit from resource extraction: Arakan Oil Watch and the Shwe Gas Movement.

While exact figures are difficult to come by, economists estimate that nearly 60% of the state budget is allocated towards military expenditures. 

The Burmese military government receives significant revenues from the extraction of oil, gas, and precious gems.  The strong demand for energy in China is propelling development in three off-shore oil fields, Shwe, Shwe-Phyu and Mya, and China is expecting to receive gas from these fields by 2013. However, there is extremely little information about the resource revenues from oil and gas within or outside the country. 

Arakan Oil Watch has worked to produce a report on oil and gas revenue transparency in Burma.  The report intends to give an overview of current and future investment in Burma, as well as an estimate of revenue payments, a breakdown of the current expenditures, and suggestions on transparency for current and future governments and companies operating locally.  This report will help to educate Burmese activists and communities about revenue transparency issues, and also serve as an advocacy tool.

The final report will provide direct links between natural resource extraction in Burma and government expenditures; specific recommendations for implementing revenue transparency practices; and details and context to help activists better understand the links between transparency the overall push for change in Burma.

RWI supported the Shwe Gas Movement (SGM) from 2008 to 2009 in the creation of a seminar on the oil and gas industry and strategic planning and advocacy directed at South Korean companies in Burma. 

The SGM is a coalition of regional and international NGOs focusing on the impact of resource extraction in western Burma. While SGM members have grown to understand the challenges extractive industries pose for development, democracy, and human rights, many others within the Burmese democracy movement, such as student groups, and ethnic advocates have not been exposed to these issues. 

SGM also has links to civil society groups in South Korea, and has been working to increase the number of SGM allies in South Korea, strengthen those relationships and increase awareness and engagement by key politicians, South Korean media and local activists.

In September of 2009, SGM released a report, “Corridor of Power” detailing plans by China for dual oil and gas pipelines stretching for nearly 4,000 kilometers. The report assesses all the financial and political risks of the plan and the estimated windfall to Burma's military junta, totaling at least US $29 billion over 30 years.