As Myanmar Tweaks Its Theft of UN Aid Funds from 25%
to 17%, Donor Anger at "Burma Shave"
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
FEC/Burma Shave series - 1st (June 26), 2nd, 3rd, 4th, last
July 26 -- Under fire for taking a
25% cut of UN aid money, Myanmar's government has implemented a
or cover-up. It has announced that certain taxes and fees can be paid
Foreign Exchange Certificates it requires that the UN convert dollars
Last week, this temporarily raised to street value of FECs from 880
local currency, to 980 kyats, limiting exchange losses from 25% back to
now the spread is back to 21%, with the FEC to kyat exchange rate
to 950 to 1, compared to 1180 kyats per dollar.
temporary fix or cover-up did not work. Even at its best, is a 17% loss
funds to the Myanmar government acceptable to donors?
Why were these losses never disclosed while
funds were being raised, including in UN appeals for $200 million and
earlier this month, $300 million more?
Myanmar troops in Yangon, funding by UN through FECs not shown
Inner City Press raised the
print and to the UN Development Program on June 26, then to UN
humanitarian chief John Holmes at
the Security Council stakeout on
July 9 and at two subsequent briefings. On
Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar Dan Baker denied there were
losses to the government. The next day
losses were "relatively small and transitory," but when asked by
Inner City Press about internal UN documents indicating otherwise, he committed to
look into the issue while visiting Myanmar. On July 24 he admitted
losses, said he'd raised them to the government, and that "they
not say exactly how but they said they would try to find ways by which
get round the problem."
more things to be paid for in
FECs, thereby slightly (and only temporarily) bringing FECs' value
that of the dollar, is not getting round the problem -- it is covering
problem up so that the siphoning of aid money, which Inner City Press
pegged as the "Burma Shave," can continue in the future, including as
reconstruction money flows in. The UN, given that it knew of but
this problem, cannot be relied on to solve it, many donors are saying.
for repayment of losses to Than Shwe's Burma Shave are growing.
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