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Giving Compass' Take:
• Investing in Myanmar right now can be controversial considering the human rights abuses that the country has made against the Rohingya people causing them to flee to Bangladesh.
• There is a need for better infrastructure in Myanmar, but will the human rights abuses keep the investors at bay? Or will the investors act more diligently in researching their relationship with Myanmar and hold them to a higher standard of accountability than before?
• The Rohingya refugee crisis is still on-going in Myanmar even as refugees are arriving at camps in Bangladesh.
Investors, the business community, development financing institutions, and other stakeholders met in Yangon, Myanmar, met for the fourth Myanmar Infrastructure Investment Summit, organized by the government under the title “Building an Inclusive, Integrated, and Modern Myanmar.”
Apparently, no irony was intended in the choice of this title to refer to a country where there are strong suspicions that genocide may have recently taken place, bulldozers are now allegedly being employed in an effort to eradicate the evidence, and where ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State — through killings, sexual violence, and deliberate starvation — appears to be continuing. Rohingya refugees are still arriving in Bangladesh, which now houses the largest refugee camp in the world.
Well-conceived infrastructure projects are vital for development, connecting producers to markets and people to sources of education, health care, and jobs. Only 20 percent of Myanmar’s roads are paved, and only 35 percent of the population is connected to the electricity grid: The need is clear. But the shocking violations of human rights which have driven hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country should heighten the vigilance of any investor.
Infrastructure projects can be laden with unassessed social risks, in any country. They include gender-blindness in project design; increases in communicable diseases; child labor; human trafficking and sexual violence; and siphoning off vital public resources for private profit. Poor stakeholder engagement is another common problem, exemplified in the failure of the Myitsone Dam joint venture between China and Myanmar.
These measures are vital for informed investments in infrastructure, and for inclusive, sustainable development. They are also vital for accountability. Myanmar cannot be considered “open for business” otherwise.
Read the full article about investing in Myanmar by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at Devex.