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Economy

Sentiments of Ethical Leviathan

Anna Matveeva - Sony Pictures

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The conversation on the role of the state reoccurs in all ages of history for all generations.  It is a central piece in understanding of the moral philosophy constructs of liberty and tyranny.  It is the definitive piece in examining of the political philosophy ideas of democracy and autocracy.  Because of its centrality this conversation expands inevitably outside of utilitarian and into ethical grounds.  On such grounds the role of the state in society has been under diligent examination from the times of the Reformation for restricting the religious liberties of the individual.  From the 17’th century onwards the state has been under continuous assault for restricting the economic and civic liberties of the individual.  Evidently the state has endured, not so much because of its virtues, but simply because of the lack of alternatives.  The strategy of surviving by simply being irreplaceable has prevailed over various reductionist and nihilistic tendencies.  Nonetheless the debate of the moral justification of the role of the state in society has not withered away.  In a new age of global and interconnected risks of climatic, pandemic and financial nature the ethical justification for the intervention of the state in society aimed to protect or restrict its liberties becomes of critical importance. This essay revises some aspects of contemporary understanding of the moral judgement of the state in context of anglophone experiences and philosophical tradition.

Sound the Retreat

In the first quarter of the new century this debate continues to engage vigorously both the academic and the wider public domains.  This expansion of intensity of thought and discourse today is driven by the conditions of four systemic and entangled crises – in credit worthiness, population displacement and migration, climate change vulnerability and human health.  In all of these calamities the state has stepped into a different degree to regulate, remediate, compensate and sanction.  This renewed vigor of activity comes after some notable retreats and most prominently from its role of economic activity manager and regulator.  From the late 1970’s the ability of the state to regulate and restrict the economic liberty of the individual and the corporation has come under intellectual and political offensive by the proponents of liberal market philosophy.  At its core this is an ideological contest on the optimal approach to protecting and promoting the concepts of individual liberty and of the public good.  The critical proposition of the philosophy of liberal markets is twofold.  Firstly, it maintains that the economic liberty of the individual is a necessary and irreplaceable condition for realization of their civic liberty. Secondly, the economic liberty of the individual is a major creative and constructive force which enhances the protection of the public and societal good. When undesirable externalities and conflict may occur as a result of such arrangements of economic liberties, then such issues are always secondary and manageable through the risk redistributive forces of the market. Furthermore, restricting and regulating the creative forces of economic liberty is detrimental to all individual civic liberty and to the societal good in general.  On the opposite end of the thought spectrum the statist philosophical tradition of economic intervention maintains that the economic liberties of the individual are optimally ensured and protected by the institutions of the state.  This tradition further claims that the economic endeavors of the private citizen will inevitably and eventually enter into conflict with the wider public good.  As a rational and self-interested party, the individual operating in this framework, will maximize and retain their benefits and externalize their cost into the social domain. In a society with finite natural resources and capabilities to absorb and remediate negative externality a conflict of burden and shortage emerges. The state with its tools and mechanics of remediation, regulation and sanction is the only fair arbitrator, the only entity capable and equipped to protect the societal good.  The configuration of political and intellectual forces in the late 1970’s was such that it drove into retreat the doctrine of the economic role of the state in society.  The prevailing understanding of the utility of this role was in practical and ideological retreat for 30 years until the arrival of the first shocks to the sovereign, corporate and personal credit markets in the first decade of the new century.

Systemic Interdependence and Transformation

The arrival of systemic economic shocks from 2008 onwards bucked the trend of the retreat of the state from its involvement in market management and regulation. The distributive properties of the liberal market system were clearly not sufficient to prevent the concentration of risk and ruin in some well-established corporate and sovereign institutions. These institutions were significantly large and deeply interconnected in economic networks such that their collapse would threaten wide spread social damage. At times of regular economic growth, of smooth and undisturbed operations of markets and corporate institutions the riskiness of interdependence does not seem evident or essential. At such a time interdependence serves as a mechanism, which channels and allocates risk and resources in what is clearly an efficiently operating market system. This quickly changed during the economic shocks and the extreme and catastrophic developments in the financial system taking place by the end of the first decade of this century. Systemic interdependence rapidly transformed into a source of risk contagion across all aspects of civic life.  The fragility of social networks during shocks severely restricted the economic and civic liberties of the individual in aspects of credit worthiness, wage earning potentials, purchasing power and entrepreneurial initiative.  The financial crisis itself with all of its impacts across the socio-economic fabric of society became the overwhelming violator of the economic liberty of the individual and the corporation – a charge which traditionally was levied on the restrictive and regulatory actions of the state. The full exercise of economic liberty by a small group of individuals and financial firms in its most exuberant form had produced a systemic externality in the form of a large accumulation of risk and ruin in critical corporate and sovereign institutions.  This externality of a most dangerous and undesirable kind deeply suppressed and severely restricted economic activity and by association economic liberty across all sections of society.  The extreme fragility of the system was evident and threatening to drive already existing societal fractures into a full systemic collapse.  At this moment and arguably and literally in the 11’th hour, the state entered the fray and lend its resources to prevent such a fully catastrophic eventuality. There are many technical stories and definitions of the intervention of the state in the financial and economic events of 2008 – 2013.  The definition which allows for examination of the ethical judgement of the state is that of corporate and sovereign debt mutualization.  The ethical intervention of the state is quite evident.  The state explicitly redistributes a negative externality of economic ruin concentrated within one small group of individuals and corporate actors across all of society by means of its fiscal and monetary mechanisms.  This is an explicit moral judgement openly executed by the state on behalf of the wider societal good.  From the perspective of the state as a civic actor, the redistribution of the ruinous burden of excessive debt across society becomes a preferable outcome than a deep societal fracture and collapse.  Stability and preservation of social order become paramount. This is an undeniable ethical judgement which the body of the state has explicitly embraced and exercised on behalf of society.  The threat associated with the role of the state in socio-economic activity in these circumstances is now entirely transformed and is has transgressed from fear of overreach and of restricting liberty to fear of failure to engage and to provide support.  The risk emerging in society at this moment is no longer that the economic liberty of the individual and corporation are being restricted by the state.  It is rather that the state may fail to act in time or that its action may not be sufficient to prevent a complete economic collapse.  The ethical judgement of the state and the state’s intervention based on this judgement are now demanded and fully welcomed by social consensus. It is then only the commitment to the common good, and to its pure survival as part of this concept, which drives the formulation of the ethical judgement of the state and consequently of its actions.  Since economic and civic liberty of the individual are two of the key components of the societal good, the actions of the state are now fully inversed from curtailing of economic liberty to protecting and promoting this human condition.

A Moral Sentiment Revised

The intervention of the state on moral and common good ground and the consensual acceptance of such actions by society create an apparent contradiction with the classical theory of liberty, which cannot be left unrecognized.  Two fundamental schools of thought – of Thomas Hobbes and of Adam Smith define the classical tradition.   The liberty of the individual is at the fulcrum of contention.  The moral philosophy proposition of Hobbes is that the only action which the individual could take to ensure his liberty, both civic and economic, is to fully submit to the state.  It is the state’s task and destiny to protect and ensure the freedom, rights and dignity of the individual.  Individual actions of civic and democratic nature, pursuits of economic and entrepreneurial substance cannot improve on these three essential human conditions. In fact, they are likely to create only discourse, conflict and rupture among social classes, which are to the detriment of the whole of society. The state on the other hand is the only civic institution, which is both entitled by its contract with society and capable by virtue of its resources to improve upon these human conditions.  Adam Smith is no less concerned with the civic and economic liberty of the individual. This is his primary passion and project.  He questions not the entitlement of the state and its contract with the individual in particular and with society in general, nor the resources of the state.  The concerns raised by Smith are about the depth of knowledge of the state, of its intellectual know-how, which if insufficient, would severely impair the effectiveness of its intervention to enrich the liberty of the individual. Much more than this, such intervention may prove to be detrimental to the cause of civil liberty. The concern raised by Smith is towards what extend such intimate and detailed knowledge accompanied by moral judgement could possibly be possessed by a single person, and by association by the body of the state. On the other hand, Smith observes that the actions of the common entrepreneur through the free flow and exchange of goods, services and ideas create social conditions under which the civic liberty of the individual is most thoroughly guaranteed.

In the last quarter of the 18’th century craftsmen, manufacturers, traders and entrepreneurs or more generally – the middle classes were the champions of civic and economic liberty.  They contended with the formidable powers of the state and of the landed aristocracy.  Their ingenuity in producing goods and their inexhaustible energy in distributing and trading them provided these social classes with incomes and position in society, which ensured their economic and civic liberty in a system, where they were by far not the dominant political force.  It was unimaginable to scholars and moral philosophers of the time that the economic actions of the common entrepreneur would cause a deep and degradative crisis in society.  Rather the opposite, Adam Smith was convinced that vigilance was needed to guarantee that the encroachment of the state and of the large land owners does not threaten the survival of the goods’ producing and trading middle class.  The preservation of economic liberty – a foundation for all civic liberties was at stake. 

The effectiveness of a socio-economic system and the robustness of civic liberty, which it enables matter not only in time of prosperity and growth but also in a time of crisis and threat.  A systemic catastrophe and economic collapse with massive impoverishment and dislocation of populations would destroy all foundation of civil liberty. In our own time, entangled and interdependently destructive forces of financial and credit ruin, health, pandemic and climate vulnerabilities have the potential to bring about such catastrophic futures. When preventing or remediating such outcomes proves to be beyond the powers of market forces the institutions of the state are called upon to intervene. The thrust of such intervention upon society in modern times is impossible without an explicit moral judgement by the state on assumption of its role as guardian of the public good.  The concept of the greater public good once again is at the center of ethical provisioning among private and public actors and institutions. The dual nature of the state precipitates the need for explicit definition of its moral judgment and for examination of the justification of its actions. By its Hobbesian nature the state would be willing to offer protection to the individual from calamity, in return it will require a full surrender of their liberties.  This is a contractual relationship between the state and the individual, or more generally between the state and society, but clearly it is of an unequal nature.  The State in a Hobbesian framework assumes that all civic good and liberty equates with the stability and the health of its institutions and thus that all civic good flows from its own deliberations.  In this paradigm, more relevant to the continental European experiences, the interests of the state and society merge seamlessly and perfectly, while the state holds the definitive prerogative of formulating these interests.

By its duality and by its liberal nature, in parallel the state would recognize that the traditions of Adam Smith and the forces of economic liberty, entrepreneurship and trade are the ones to create the true conditions for material and moral prosperity as core premises of civic liberty. This is the paradigm closer to the political experience of the Anglo sphere.  Yet in the last 70 years, we have many examples and occasions of both traditions failing the common good of society.  The hard, theoretical application of statist or of liberal markets’ principles in dogmatic manner may not be sufficient to address the formation and emergence of multiple and dependent societal risks today.  The notion that institutional tools, mechanisms and policies need to be selected and implemented upon their merit and upon their fitness for purpose for solving particular civic problems rather than on pure ideological grounds is not new.  The critical question though remains if the state with its network of institutions is capable to make such selection and deliberation effectively on behalf of the societal good.  We have come full circle as this is the same question which Adam Smith posed in the Wealth of Nations nearly 250 years ago.  The historical reality and the ethical grounds of the question however have changed entirely.  In its originality Adam Smith initiated the conversation in order to encourage the individual drive for economic and civic liberty and to caution the intervention of the institutions of the state on the premise of their insufficient knowledge to act on behalf of the common good.  Smith doubted the cognitive ability of the Hobbesian state to be an effective moral arbitrator of the societal common good. Some 250 years later the frailty of cognition is not limited to the institutions of the state.  The recent catastrophic events of the sovereign credit and financial crisis were not the first banking and economic crisis to decent upon society.  Despite a rich historical experience, well studied and well documented, the corporate financial sector, as well as some sovereign borrowers found themselves fully unprepared to shore up a multi sector-wide economic meltdown. At that time the charge of failure of cognition, sound business reasoning and moral judgement can be effectively leveled at both private and state economic actors and institutions with the same validity.  Deeper inside the decision-making processes of economic actors – individual, corporate and sovereign, such decisions, which prove to be detrimental to the wider civic good, may be due entirely to lack of knowledge and to information sparsity and asymmetry. Such decisions may very well be fully optimal and well informed from the perspective of a single economic agent. Economic action also comes about as a result of setting of priorities, defining hierarchies of expected and desirable outcomes, based on hierarchies of values of all critical actors involved. Rather than an issue of information asymmetries and market inefficiencies the argument revolves more intensively to organizing priorities of moral sentiment, hierarchies of values in the perception of the public good. The task of structuring and organization of priority of moral sentiments and ethical values would be more equally met if it were to be taken on not only by the institutions of the state but by the wider civic orders. After all recent events and historical examples show that this task is too important to be left to one order of society. When such singular formation of priority of values occurs, whether we rely on the mechanisms and channels of the markets or on the prerogative power of the state the outcomes are often times less than desirable. The institutions of the state, the corporate sector and civil society can work in synchronicity on this hierarchy of moral sentiments only within a stable and democratic political framework conducive to this purpose. A framework which will allow the various orders of society to raise the definition of the public good to the top of the agenda of a revitalized and ethical Leviathan.

Ivelin Zvezdov is a financial and insurance economist by training. He has masters' degrees from the Universities of St. Andrews and Oxford. He works on natural and man-made catastrophe modeling and product development for the (re)insurance industry. His research interests include climate change and environmental risk, contagion and propagation of systemic risk, sustainable and ecosystems approaches to managing natural resources. Mr. Zvezdov has published research papers on financial and insurance quantitative methods for risk management, and on environmental and biodiversity risk estimation.

Economy

Sustainable Agriculture in Modern Society

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Now everybody is seeing the world is changing fast in this 21st century and many industries and modern buildings are also developing all over the world. But the land areas for farming are becoming narrower and narrower. Moreover, the global population is increasing rapidly and the earth becomes a crowded planet. But the younger people who are interested in agriculture are becoming less and less. There might be some young people who even think that they get foods from grocery stores because the younger generation are used to buy many kinds of ready-made foods such as fruits and vegetables easily from supermarkets. Recently, in the developed countries, the average age of many farmers is over 50 years old and the numbers of young farmers are decreasing. The shortage of young farmers can become a crisis in the future of the developed world.

In modern days, most young adults cannot see the difficult lives of farmers beyond the curtain. The farmers have to pass their whole life through a tough living in farming and sell their products at very low profit to many profiteering companies because they don’t have much choices. It is a sad story for farmers but truly happening in these modern days.

Today I would like to point out that we should not forget the role of agriculture which is very fundamental and essential for building a nation. Farming is an age-old profession that supported the settlement of human beings for thousands of years to survive on this planet. Agriculture is very important for the development of a nation because it provides the trading and employment, supply the foods and textiles and that can lead to the rise in gross domestic product (GDP) of a nation. Agriculture plays a crucial role in economy of a developing nation where majority of population is in rural areas and agriculture is the main source of job in many underdeveloped areas. Many families in developing countries live depending on farming for their livelihood. So, it can be even said that developing agriculture is an important step to reduce poverty and hunger in many developing countries. Agriculture support nutrients rich foods that are essential requirements for our healthy life because nutrients rich foods provide energy for our body, essential nutrients for our vital organs such as brain and heart etc, and enhance our immune system. So, agriculture is necessary for a flourishing and joyful life of human being.

Especially let’s see my home country, as data from Food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United Nations, “The agriculture supports 37.8 % of gross domestic product of Myanmar, contributed to 25-30% of total export earnings and employs 70 % of the labour force”. Humans cannot survive without agriculture. When there is no more agriculture, it will end with starvation and collapse in economy. It will cause a serious failure in modern civilization.

Nowadays, modern farming is largely evolved into industrial agriculture where many kinds of chemical fertilizers are being used to induce massive production. Industrial agriculture is beneficial to economic development because it can cause the crops growing faster than in the traditional agriculture. The industrial agriculture can provide more enough foods for growing population in modern civilization. However, it is not sustainable because it cannot protect the benefits of the society and our green planet in the long run. Chemicals used in agriculture are destroying the soil where is left with damaged soil fertility and this area can’t be reused in the future. This is a huge affect to sustainability of our green environment.

Modern agriculture has many issues related to water scarcity, soil erosion, climate changes and etc. To be sustainable in agriculture, we must focus on solutions of these issues. The sustainable agriculture will focus on three bottom lines that is environmental, economical and social.

The sustainable agriculture involves many practices such as using the organic fertilizers in farming, growing drought resistant crops, breeding biodiversity in farms, modified irrigation systems and others. Sustainable agriculture is more suitable to practice for the future of the green earth than industrial agriculture. It is very important to promote awareness of sustainable agriculture and issues related to environmentally toxic practices in agricultures among local farmers. And I believe that it can cause many advantages for economic development if farmers can work systematically with sustainable practices in their farming and the local authority can provide farmers with more technological skills and lending some funding to practice sustainable ways in agriculture. With the willingness to participate for environmental heath at the enough profit for incomes of daily living life, I hope famers will become socially responsible persons.

And another one more point, in this digitalization era, we should certainly apply digital technologies in sustainable agriculture. By developing digital farming, it will help farmers to get easier access to source of many information related to agricultural practices. Government in developing countries should support to develop digital farming as rapidly as possible for the poor farmers to get proper profits and to work in environmentally friendly practices. Since poor countries already have enough labour force, they just need many financial aid and technology supports to grow into sustainable agriculture.

I believe that it is a responsibility for our humans that we should not forget something that had supported our existence on this earth. We should work out for development of traditional agriculture into modern agriculture with the best sustainable ways. As being a part of this society, we must help each other, we must protect the sustainability of this green earth, Biodiversity and this is also beneficial for long-term existence of our human beings on this earth. Let me end this talk by suggesting everyone to promote sustainable agriculture in your surrounding local farming.

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Economy

The Blazing Revival of Bitcoin: BITO ETF Debuts as the Second-Highest Traded Fund

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It seems like bitcoin is as resilient as a relentless pandemic: persistent and refusing to stay down. Not long ago, the crypto-giant lost more than half of its valuation in the aftermath of a brutal crackdown by China. Coupled with pessimism reflected by influencers like Elon Musk, the bitcoin plummeted from the all-time high valuation of $64,888.99 to flirt around the $30,000 mark in mere weeks. However, over the course of the last four months, the behemoth of the crypto-market gradually climbed to reclaim its supremacy. Today, weaving through national acceptance to market recognition, bitcoin could be the gateway to normalizing the elusive crypto-world in the traditional global markets: particularly the United States.

The recent bullish development is the launch of the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF – the first Bitcoin-linked exchange-traded fund – on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading under the ticker BITO, the Bitcoin ETF welcomed a robust trading day: rising 4.9% to $41.94. According to the data compiled by Bloomberg, BITO’s debut marked it as the second-highest traded fund, behind BlackRock’s Carbon fund, for the first day of trading. With a turnover of almost $1 billion, the listing of BITO highlighted the demand for reliable investment in bitcoin in the US market. According to estimates on Tuesday, More than 24 million shares changed hands while BITO was one of the most-bought assets on Fidelity’s platform with more than 8,800 buy orders.

The bitcoin continued to rally, cruising over the lucrative launch of BITO. The digital currency rose to $64,309.33 on Tuesday: less than 1% below the all-time high valuation. In hindsight, the recovery seems commendable. The growing acceptance, albeit, has far more consequential attributes. The cardinal benefit is apparent: evidence of gradual acceptance by regulators. “The launch of ProShares’ bitcoin ETF on the NYSE provides the validation that some investors need to consider adding BTC to their portfolio,” stated Hong Fang, CEO of Okcoin. In simpler terms, not only would the listing allow relief to the crypto loyalists (solidifying their belief in the currency), but it would also embolden investors on the sidelines who have long been deterred by regulatory uncertainty. Thus, bringing larger, more rooted institutional investors into the crypto market: along with a surge of capital.

However, the surging acceptance may be diluting the rudimentary phenomenon of bitcoin. While retail investors would continue to participate in the notorious game of speculation via trading bitcoin, the opportunity to gain indirect exposure to bitcoin could divert the risk-averse investors. It means many loyalists could retract and direct towards BITO and other imminent bitcoin-linked ETFs instead of setting up a digital custodianship. Ultimately, it boils down to Bitcoin ETFs being managed by third parties instead of the investor: relenting control to a centralized figure. Moreover, with growing scrutiny under the eye of SECP, the steps vaguely intimate a transition to harness the market instead of liberalizing it: quiet oxymoronic to the entire decentralized model of cryptocurrencies.

Nonetheless, the listing of BITO is an optimistic development that would draw skeptics to at least observe the rampant popularity of the asset class. While the options on BITO are expected to begin trading on the NYSE Arca Options and NYSE American Options exchanges on Wednesday, other futures-based Bitcoin ETFs are on the cards. The surging popularity (and reluctant acceptance) amid tightening regulation could prove a turn of an era for the US capital markets. However, as some critics have cited, BITO is not a spot-based ETF and is instead linked to futures contracts. Thus, the restrain is still present as the regulators do not want a repeat of the financial crisis. Nevertheless, bitcoin has proved its deterrence in the face of skepticism. And if the BITO launch is to be marveled at, then the regulations are bound to adapt to the revolution that is unraveling in the modern financial reality.

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Economy

Is Myanmar an ethical minefield for multinational corporations?

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Business at a crossroads

Political reforms in Myanmar started in November 2010 followed by the release of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and ended by the coup d’état in February 2021. Business empire run by the military generals thanks to the fruitful benefits of democratic transition during the last decade will come to an end with the return of trade and diplomatic sanctions from the western countries – United States (US) and members of European Union (EU).  US and EU align with other major international partners quickly responded and imposed sanctions over the military’s takeover and subsequent repression in Myanmar. These measures targeted not only the conglomerates of the military generals  but also the individuals who have been appointed in the authority positions and supporting the military regime.

However, the generals and their cronies own the majority of economic power both in strategic sectors ranging from telecommunication to oil & gas and in non-strategic commodity sectors such as food and beverages, construction materials, and the list goes on. It is a tall order for the investors to do business by avoiding this lucrative network of the military across the country. After the coup, it raises the most puzzling issue to investors and corporate giants in this natural resource-rich country, “Should I stay or Should I go?”

Crimes against humanity

For most of the people in the country, war crimes and atrocities committed by the military are nothing new. For instances, in 1988, student activists led a political movement and tried to bring an end to the military regime of the general Ne Win. This movement sparked a fire and grew into a nationwide uprising in a very short period but the military used lethal force and slaughtered thousands of civilian protestors including medical doctors, religious figures, student leaders, etc. A few months later, the public had no better options than being silenced under barbaric torture and lawless killings of the regime.

In 2007, there was another major protest called ‘Saffron Uprising’ against the military regime led by the Buddhist monks. It was actually the biggest pro-democracy movement since 1988 and the atmosphere of the demonstration was rather peaceful and non-violent before the military opened live ammunitions towards the crowd full of monks. Everything was in chaos for a couple of months but it ended as usual.

In 2017, the entire world witnessed one of the most tragic events in Myanmar – Again!. The reports published by the UN stated that hundreds of civilians were killed, dozens of villages were burnt down, and over 700,000 people including the majority of Rohingya were displaced to neighboring countries because of the atrocities committed by the military in the western border of the country. After four years passed, the repatriation process and the safety return of these refugees to their places of origin are yet unknown. Most importantly, there is no legal punishment for those who committed and there is no transitional justice for those who suffered in the aforementioned examples of brutalities.

The vicious circle repeated in 2021. With the economy in free fall and the deadliest virus at doorsteps, the people are still unbowed by the oppression of the junta and continue demanding the restoration of democracy and justice. To date, Assistant Association for Political Prisoner (AAPP) reported that due to practicing the rights to expression, 1178 civilians were killed and 7355 were arrested, charged or sentenced by the military junta. Unfortunately, the numbers are still increasing.

Call for economic disengagement

In 2019, the economic interests of the military were disclosed by the report of UN Fact-Finding Mission in which Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (MEHL) were described as the prominent entities controlled by the military profitable through the almost-monopoly market in real estate, insurance, health care, manufacturing, extractive industry and telecommunication. It also mentioned the list of foreign businesses in partnership with the military-linked activities which includes Adani (India), Kirin Holdings (Japan), Posco Steel (South Korea), Infosys (India) and Universal Apparel (Hong Kong).

Moreover, Justice for Myanmar, a non-profit watchdog organization, revealed the specific facts and figures on how the billions of revenues has been pouring into the pockets of the high-ranked officers in the military in 2021. Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), an another military-controlled authority body, is the key player handling the financial transactions, profit sharing, and contractual agreements with the international counterparts including Total (France), Chevron (US), PTTEP (Thailand), Petronas (Malaysia), and Posco (South Korea) in natural gas projects. It is also estimated that the military will enjoy 1.5 billion USD from these energy giants in 2022.

Additionally, data shows that the corporate businesses currently operating in Myanmar has been enriching the conglomerates of the generals and their cronies as a proof to the ongoing debate among the public and scholars, “Do sanctions actually work?” Some critics stressed that sanctions alone might be difficult to pressure the junta without any collaborative actions from Moscow and Beijing, the longstanding allies of the military. Recent bilateral visits and arm deals between Nay Pyi Taw and Moscow dimmed the hope of the people in Myanmar. It is now crystal clear that the Burmese military never had an intention to use the money from multinational corporations for benefits of its citizens, but instead for buying weapons, building up military academies, and sending scholars to Russia to learn about military technology. In March 2021, the International Fact Finding Mission to Myanmar reiterated its recommendation for the complete economic disengagement as a response to the coup, “No business enterprise active in Myanmar or trading with or investing in businesses in Myanmar should enter into an economic or financial relationship with the security forces of Myanmar, in particular the Tatmadaw [the military], or any enterprise owned or controlled by them or their individual members…”

Blood money and ethical dilemma

In the previous military regime until 2009, the US, UK and other democratic champion countries imposed strict economic and diplomatic sanctions on Myanmar while maintaining ‘carrot and stick’ approach against the geopolitical dominance of China. Even so, energy giants such as Total (France) and Chevron (US), and other ‘low-profile’ companies from ASEAN succeeded in running their operations in Myanmar, let alone the nakedly abuses of its natural resources by China. Doing business in this country at the time of injustice is an ethical question to corporate businesses but most of them seems to prefer maximizing the wealth of their shareholders to the freedom of its bottom millions in poverty.

But there are also companies not hesitating to do something right by showing their willingness not to be a part of human right violations of the regime. For example, Australian mining company, Woodside, decided not to proceed further operations, and ‘get off the fence’ on Myanmar by mentioning that the possibility of complete economical disengagement has been under review. A breaking news in July, 2021  that surprised everyone was the exit of Telenor Myanmar – one of four current telecom operators in the country. The CEO of the Norwegian company announced that the business had been sold to M1 Group, a Lebanese investment firm, due to the declining sales and ongoing political situations compromising its basic principles of human rights and workplace safety.

In fact, cutting off the economic ties with the junta and introducing a unified, complete economic disengagement become a matter of necessity to end the consistent suffering of the people of Myanmar. Otherwise, no one can blame the people for presuming that international community is just taking a moral high ground without any genuine desire to support the fight for freedom and pro-democracy movement.

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