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Stakeholders urge govt for more transparency in hydropower and mining

The multi-stakeholder group (MSG) comprising of government officials, civic bodies and investors has urged the Myanmar government to increase transparency in hydropower and mining sectors. 

Myanmar is currently applying to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global coalition of governments, companies and civil society working to improve openness and accountability around the extraction of natural resources.

“We’ve seen that the investment in hydropower sector topped nearly US$90 billion. The government should publicise which industry has been contracted and which is still at negotiation stage. Similarly, the mining sector has seen US$8 billion in official investment, but this could actually be around US$16 billion. These sectors should be included in EITI to unveil them to public,” said David Allan from Spectrum Group, an advisory body in industrial, environmental and human rights issues.

The Myanmar government has submitted an application to the EITI international secretariat office on May 7, 2014 and expects a reply by July this year. 

EITI member countries implement the EITI Standard to ensure full disclosure of taxes and other payments made by oil, gas and mining companies to governments. This ensures that revenues gained from national resources also benefit the country. 

It is often seen as an exclusive club that guarantees investors that governments are working to ensure accountability around lucrative mining and other extractive industries.  

Min Ko Naing, a member of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society stressed that most foreign business contracts in Myanmar are only publicised after a deal has been signed, even when projects such as hydro-electric dams, mining or large-scale development are supposedly in the public interest. 

“The people know about the business dealing between the government and the foreign investors only after they’ve read the newspapers. The deal is reached though the charges are lower than the actual price and under-table agreements are all too common. In the Myitsone Project, the public was notified only after the deal was signed. The public has the right to know before the contract is signed,” said Min Ko Naing, an 88 activist and leader. 

To become a member of EITI, the government needs to explain clearly how it aims to implement standards of transparency and accountability around the extraction of natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals and even timber. 

This must be done in full cooperation with private companies, civil society and government bodies.  

At present, 23 countries around the world follow the EITI Standard and 16 are members of EITI. For EITI member countries, citizens must be able to enjoy the benefits of the country’s resources.

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