Thursday, January 5, 2012

British bank wants to return to Burma


Thursday, 05 January 2012 22:52 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – A major British bank, Standard Chartered Plc, which earns more than two-thirds of its profits in Asia, wants to return to Burma once U.S. and Britain sanctions are lifted, which the bank says may happen sometime this year.

“We used to be in Burma for a long time, and we’ll be very happy to get back there,” Jaspal Bindra, the bank’s chief executive officer for Asia, told journalists in Hong Kong, according to Bloomberg news. “If I was a betting man, I would say in 2012 Burma will be off the sanctions list.”

North Korea is the only other Asian market where Standard Chartered doesn’t operate, the article said.

U.S. and European sanctions against Burma have increased since 1988, when President Ronald Reagan suspended aid and banned arms sales after soldiers killed about 3,000 student protesters.

Visiting Burma last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the highest-level U.S. official to visit in more than five decades. Clinton pledged to upgrade relations if the government takes further steps toward creating a democratic country.

Burma’s currency exchange system is now undergoing evaluation by the International Monetary Fund, in an effort to normalize its practices to conform to international standards.

In a 2002 paper written by Burma watcher Sean Turnell, a member of the economics department at Macquarie University in Sydney, he said Burma’s banking system was antiquated.

“Burma has not had a properly functioning financial system for four decades. The present system, an unstable mix of monolithic state-owned institutions and a cohort of new private banks of dubious legitimacy, is a serious brake on Burma's economy,” he said.

Government restrictions and weak investment laws plague the country’s economy. Citizens earn an estimated $2.20 per day on average, about seven times below its neighbor Thailand, according to International Monetary Fund statistics.

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