Myanmar’s Coup Economy Is ‘Boom and Bust’ 

Myanmar’s economy is crumbling and experts predict more illegal trade and zero growth in 2022. 

The Southeast Asian country’s economy has been in rapid decline following the chaos of February’s military coup. Thousands of citizens have gone on strike, refusing to work under military rule, including healthcare workers, lawyers, teachers and engineers. 

Days after the coup took place nine months ago, the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), was formed. It is a large-scale labor strike campaign with a mission to resist the junta by denting the military-controlled economy. 

Shortly after the movement began, Myanmar’s bankers joined and refused to go to work. That prompted cash flow problems for the population and businesses, but also the military.

As the year has gone on, any military-owned or affiliated businesses faced large boycotts. Global brands have halted orders with Myanmar’s manufacturing industry, while Chinese-made products have been boycotted amid allegations that China supports Myanmar’s military junta. Beijing had blocked a U.N. Security Council statement condemning the coup. 

Fearing for their lives, thousands of workers fled their rural homes because of the increased fighting between national soldiers and opposition groups. Factories and businesses have also closed, leading to increasing unemployment and lost income. 

Gwen Robinson, an editor at Nikkei Asia, sponsored an event hosted by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok in November, that outlined some of the economic woes in Myanmar.

“It’s clear we are seeing both boom and bust in Myanmar right now. There is a booming illicit economy… and there are growing perceptions of a collapsing licit or domestic open economy,” she said. 

With a continuing crackdown, Myanmar’s military enterprises have faced heavy trade sanctions by the U.S., Britain and the European Union. It’s put pressure on military leadership. 

“General Min Aung Hlaing [has spoken of] increased self-reliance, urged people use less fuel, increase use of public transport and walking, consume less edible oil, reduce imports and consume less rice. There is a creeping paranoia by the junta that the economy is crumbling around them, and seem powerless to stop the rot,” Robinson said. 

Myanmar’s agricultural, marine, mineral and manufactured exports have slowed, while raw materials and investment imports have also been in decline since 2020. Myanmar business registrations also have fallen by 44% this year, while there have been rapid changes in the valuation of Myanmar’s currency, the kyat, against the U.S. dollar in recent months, Robinson’s researched outlined. 

A report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) states there were 1.2 million job losses in the second quarter of 2021. All sectors of Myanmar’s economy were affected, with the tourist, hospitality, construction and garment sectors hit the worst. 

But the sliding economy has been apparent since the beginning of last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson said. 

“The economy was beginning to collapse well before the coup due to these very harsh lockdowns that closed businesses and choked the economy. The resurgence of COVID-19 has hit the economy,” she added. 

Myanmar has a population of nearly 55 million. About 25% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, the country has recorded more than 522,000 cases and 19,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

In July the World Bank had forecasted Myanmar’s legitimate economy would decline by 18% in 2021. Fitch Solutions, a U.S. credit rating agency, has revised its growth forecast for Myanmar for 2022 by predicting there will be a -4.4% contraction.

Political analyst Aung Thu Nyein believes any positive recovery of Myanmar’s economy is unlikely. 

“Other neighboring countries show a sign of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. I don’t see a sign of recovery in the coming year for the Myanmar economy. It is very likely to go back to the status of “the last frontier in Asia” as some people claimed Myanmar in its initial opening in 2012. There seems no potential credible investment in 2022,” he told VOA. 

The analyst admitted that a little growth in trade could be possible because borders are expected to open with China and Russia continuing to supply equipment to the military. 

But Jeremy Douglas, the Regional Representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said as the legitimate economy declines, the illicit drug trade among crime groups is growing. 

Also speaking at the FCCT event on November 17, Douglas said the illicit economy, including heroin and methamphetamines, is “diverse.” 

“The synthetic drug economy has proven its ability to expand very fast, so it really ramped up. This is against the background of the conditions on the ground, and these conditions are perfect for these folks to do this business, to grow that illicit economy as the licit declines,” he said. 

Douglas said Myanmar’s Shan state is a production point for illegal drugs being distributed across the Asia Pacific region and added as the market economy declines in Myanmar, those out of work are being lured to work within the drug trade. 

“It is a huge economy already, pre the coup, even after COVID-19, it continued to expand. As the transport connections start expanding, you’re going to see more connection to those markets and the push from supply go further and further from the point of production, which is a concern,” he added. 

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, gained independence in 1948 from Britain but most of its modern history has been governed under military rule. 

In the November 2020 general elections, Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratic government won convincingly, but the military contested the results, claiming widespread electoral fraud without evidence. On February 1, the military removed the government, while arresting Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who both face mounting criminal charges. 

Anti-coup demonstrations began shortly after, with thousands taking to the streets. But the military has violently cracked down on dissidents, with at least 1,300 killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

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Організатори акції в Києві озвучили вимогу відставки президента Зеленського

Як заявив в ефірі Радіо Свобода співорганізатор події Мирослав Гай, учасники акції згодом вирішать, чи буде вона безстроковою

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Factories Facing Supply Headaches as Omicron Risks Emerge

Global factory activity accelerated in November although crippling supply bottlenecks remained, putting a cap on output and driving up the cost of raw materials, according to surveys published on Wednesday.

Towards the end of the month, the newly-detected Omicron coronavirus variant emerged as a fresh worry for policymakers, who are already trying to pilot recovering economies and tamp-down inflation.

The November surveys likely did not reflect the spread of the variant, which could add further pressure on pandemic-disrupted supply chains, with many countries imposing fresh border controls to seal themselves off.

“The Omicron variant…could be a game-changer: shortages of inputs and labor would worsen for manufacturers if Britain and other countries went into another lockdown,” said Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

IHS Markit’s final manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the euro zone nevertheless nudged up to 58.4 in November from October’s 58.3, shy of an initial 58.6 “flash” estimate but still comfortably above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction.

Supply chain issues have made it a sellers’ market for raw materials and the input prices index was only just below October’s record high and factories in the region passed on the rising costs to customers at the fastest rate in the survey’s history.

That suggests overall inflation in the bloc, which preliminary official data showed on Tuesday was a record high 4.9% last month, will continue to overshoot the European Central Bank’s 2.0% target putting pressure on the bank to act.

In Britain, outside the European Union and euro zone, more manufacturers than at any point in the last 30 years reported rising costs last month, underlining pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

The BoE will be the first major central bank to raise interest rates, possibly as soon as this month, a November Reuters poll predicted.

U.S. central bankers will discuss in December whether to end their bond purchases a few months earlier than had been anticipated, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday, leading to a sharp move higher in shorter-dated Treasury yields. 

China breaks

China’s factory activity fell back into contraction in November, the private Caixin/Markit Manufacturing PMI showed, as soft demand and elevated prices hurt manufacturers.

The findings from the private-sector survey, which focuses more on small firms in coastal regions, stood in contrast with those in China’s official PMI on Tuesday that showed manufacturing activity unexpectedly rose in November, albeit at a very modest pace.

“Relaxing constraints on the supply side, especially the easing of the power crunch, quickened the pace of production recovery,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, in a statement accompanying the data release.

“But demand was relatively weak, suppressed by the COVID-19 epidemic and rising product prices.”

Beyond China, however, factory activity seemed to be on the mend with PMIs showing expansion in countries ranging from Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japan’s PMI rose to a near four-year high while in South Korea’s the PMI edged up.

India’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in 10 months in November, buoyed by a strong pick-up in demand. Taiwan’s manufacturing activity continued to expand and it was a similar picture in Indonesia.

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Метеорологи розповіли, коли в Києві у листопаді було найтепліше і найхолодніше

Найхолоднішим днем було 17 листопада, коли мінімальна температура знизилась під ранок до -7,1°С, а найтеплішим – 5 листопада, коли максимальна температура досягла +15,8°С

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30 років тому. Референдум 1991 року про незалежність України і розпад СРСР (архівні фото)

Український народ підтвердив прагнення жити в незалежній  державі – 90,32% учасників референдуму відповіло: «Так». А 8 грудня 1991 року Біловезька угода констатувала припинення існування СРСР

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Tel Aviv Ranked World’s Priciest City for First Time

Tel Aviv is the world’s most expensive city to live in as soaring inflation has pushed up living costs globally, according to a survey published Wednesday.

The Israeli city climbed five rungs to score top place for the first time in the authoritative ranking compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 

The Worldwide Cost of Living Index is compiled by comparing prices in U.S. dollars for goods and services in 173 cities.

Tel Aviv climbed the rankings partly due to the strength of the national currency, the shekel, against the dollar, as well increases in prices for transport and groceries. 

Paris and Singapore came in tied for second, followed by Zurich and Hong Kong. New York City was in sixth place, with Geneva in seventh. 

Rounding off the top 10 were Copenhagen in eighth, Los Angeles in ninth and Osaka, Japan, in 10th place. 

Last year, the survey put Paris, Zurich and Hong Kong in a tie for first place. 

This year’s figures were collected in August and September as prices for freight and commodities rose and show that on average prices rose 3.5% in local currency terms – the fastest inflation rate recorded over the past five years.

Social restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic “have disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices,” said Upasana Dutt, head of worldwide cost of living at the EIU.

“We can clearly see the impact in this year’s index, with the rise in petrol prices particularly stark,” she said, while central banks are expected to raise interest rates cautiously, reducing inflation. 

The average inflation figure does not include four cities with exceptionally high rates: Caracas, Damascus, Buenos Aires and Tehran. 

The Iranian capital rose from 79th to 29th place in the ranking as U.S. sanctions have pushed up prices and caused shortages. 

Damascus was ranked the world’s least expensive city to live in. 

 

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Illegal Child Labor Growing After 20-Year Downward Trend, UN Reports

An estimated 16.6 million children in sub-Saharan Africa alone are forced into illegal labor, according to the U.N. And despite being outlawed, advocates say child labor is on the rise. Globally, 1 in 10 children are now believed to be involved in some form of child labor. In this report from southern Burkina Faso, reporter Henry Wilkins looks at why child labor is such a persistent problem.

Camera: Henry Wilkins

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Appeals Court Weighs Trump Arguments to Withhold Records

A panel of judges on Tuesday questioned whether they had the authority to grant former President Donald Trump’s demands and stop the White House from allowing the release of documents related to the January 6 insurrection led by Trump’s supporters.

But the judges also noted that there may be times when a former president would be justified in trying to stop the incumbent from disclosing records.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments from lawyers for Trump and the House committee seeking the records as part of its investigation into the Capitol riot. Trump’s attorneys want the court to reverse a federal judge’s ruling allowing the National Archives and Records Administration to turn over the records after President Joe Biden waived executive privilege.

Trump supporters broke into the Capitol on January 6 after a rally near the White House where he made false claims of election fraud and challenged them to “fight like hell.” About 700 people have been federally charged. Nine people died during and after the rioting.

The National Archives has said that the records Trump wants to block include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts, handwritten notes “concerning the events of January 6” from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and “a draft Executive Order on the topic of election integrity.” 

Role of federal courts

Compared to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, whose ruling Trump is contesting, the three judges on the appeals court spent relatively little time weighing the importance of the documents themselves. They instead focused most of the hearing Tuesday on what role federal courts should have when an incumbent president and former president are at odds over records from the former’s administration. 

The judges sharply questioned both sides and challenged them with hypothetical scenarios.

To Trump’s lawyers, Judge Patricia Millett suggested a situation where a current president negotiating with a foreign leader needed to know what promises a former president had made to that leader. The incumbent might seek to release a transcript of a phone call or other records from the previous administration for national security reasons, the judge said.

“To be clear, your position is a former president could come in and file a lawsuit?” Millett said. Trump lawyer Justin Clark responded, “That is our position.” 

To a lawyer for the House committee, Millett raised a scenario where a newly elected president might seek retribution against a disliked predecessor. The new president and a Congress led by the same party might declare that there was a national security interest in releasing all of the former president’s records, even at the risk of endangering people’s lives, she said. 

“Needless to say, the former president comes to court, (says), ‘Hang on,'” Millett said. “What happens?” 

She did not say she was referring to any president and rejected committee lawyer Douglas Letter’s response referencing a president who “fomented an insurrection.” 

“We’re not going to make it that easy,” she said.

Letter argued the determination of a current president should outweigh predecessors in almost all circumstances and noted that both Biden and Congress were in agreement that the January 6 records should be turned over.

“It would be astonishing for this court to override the current president and Congress,” Letter said.

Democratic presidents nominated all three judges who heard arguments Tuesday. Millett and Judge Robert Wilkins were nominated by former President Barack Obama. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Biden appointee seen as a contender for a Supreme Court seat should one open during the current administration. 

‘Balancing act’

Jackson said Tuesday that she questioned whether judges should intervene in a dispute where the executive and legislative branches agree but a former president doesn’t.

“The court swooping in to do some sort of balancing test … actually raises its own separation of powers concerns in terms of the power of the court to resolve or to second-guess what this executive is saying,” she said. 

Given the stakes of the case, either side is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Despite Trump’s false claims about a stolen election, the results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by courts. The last attorney general appointed by Trump, William Barr, has said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud. 

In explaining why Biden has not shielded Trump’s records, White House counsel Dana Remus has written that they could “shed light on events within the White House on and about January 6 and bear on the Select Committee’s need to understand the facts underlying the most serious attack on the operations of the Federal Government since the Civil War.” 

Trump and his allies have fought the committee in court and in Congress by claiming that the former president can still exert executive privilege to prevent cooperation. Their efforts have delayed for months the production of key information to the committee.

Former chief of staff Meadows and former adviser Steve Bannon have resisted efforts by the House panel to obtain documents and question them about possible meetings with Trump before the riot. The Justice Department has indicted Bannon on a contempt of Congress charge. Meadows, seeking to avoid the same, is now cooperating on a limited basis, the committee’s chairman said Tuesday. 

In their appeal to the circuit court, Trump’s lawyers said they agreed with Chutkan that presidents were not kings who must not be challenged. “True, but in that same vein, Congress is not Parliament — a legislative body with supreme and unchecked constitutional power over the operations of government,” they wrote.

Trump has argued that records of his deliberations on January 6 must be withheld to protect executive privilege for future presidents and that the Democrat-led House is primarily driven by politics. The House committee’s lawyers rejected those arguments and called Trump’s attempts to assert executive privilege “unprecedented and deeply flawed.” 

“It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome Congress’s pressing need,” the committee’s lawyers said. 

 

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Ex-Trump Chief-of-Staff Meadows Cooperating with Jan. 6 Panel, for Now 

The House of Representatives committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot said on Tuesday that Mark Meadows, who served as former President Donald Trump’s chief-of-staff, has provided it with records and agreed to appear soon for a deposition. 

“Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition,” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House select committee, said in a statement. 

Thompson did not rule out future action against Meadows. Noting that the panel expects all witnesses to provide all the information requested that it is lawfully entitled to receive, Thompson said: “The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.” 

Trump has urged his associates not to cooperate with the committee, calling the Democratic-led investigation politically motivated and arguing that his communications are protected by executive privilege, although many legal experts say that legal principle does not apply to former presidents. 

On Jan. 6, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from formally certifying his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Shortly before the riot, Trump gave a speech to his supporters repeating his false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud and urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.” 

‘An understanding’ 

Meadows’ lawyer George Terwilliger did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Terwilliger said in a statement to CNN that the two parties had reached an understanding on how information can be exchanged moving forward, stating that Meadows and the committee are open to engaging on a certain set of topics as they work out how to deal with information that could fall under executive privilege. 

Meadows was a Republican House member until he left in 2020 to join Trump’s administration. 

Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon already has been criminally charged with contempt of Congress, pleading not guilty, after defying a committee subpoena. The select committee is meeting  on Wednesday to consider seeking similar charges against Jeffrey Clark, who served as a senior Justice Department official under Trump. 

Meadows was called to appear before the committee this month, but did not do so. 

Agreeing to appear for a deposition does not guarantee that Meadows will provide all the information requested in the committee’s subpoena. Clark appeared, but committee members said he did not cooperate with investigators. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday that he expects the Democratic-led chamber to vote on Clark’s contempt recommendation this week, if the panel approves it as expected. 

 

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Biden Heads to Minnesota to Promote Infrastructure Plan

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday visits a Minnesota technical college to sell Americans on his recently approved $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which the administration says will train millions of Americans “for the high-growth jobs of the future” that will build the massive infrastructure Biden says the U.S. needs to compete globally.

This is Biden’s first visit to the state known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” since he was elected president. He plans to visit Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota, to speak to students about the legislation and how it affects them. 

“The majority of jobs supported by the president’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will not need a four-year college degree,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, ahead of the trip. “And the programs provided by community and technical colleges like Dakota County Technical College will provide the training and skill development needed to help workers access the jobs created.”

The public, two-year technical college serves nearly 13,000 students across multiple disciplines, including construction and manufacturing.

The White House estimates that under the new law, Minnesota will receive $4.5 billion for federal-aid highways; $302 million for bridges; $818 million for public transportation; $680 million to improve water infrastructure; and $100 million that aims to cover every resident with high-speed internet. 

The legislation also will provide about $68 million to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network, and Minnesota will receive a slice of the $50 billion the law allocates to strengthening infrastructure against the impacts of climate change.

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Прокуратура відкрила справу через обстріл Станиці Луганської, внаслідок якого постраждав цивільний

Працівник місцевої філії «Укрзалізниці» отримав осколкове поранення в голову через обстріл, його стан стабільний

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Конституційний суд відтермінував присягу суддів, призначених за квотою Зеленського – Совгиря

За словами депутатки, приведення до присяги перенесли до «остаточного підтвердження наявності вакантних посад за квотою президента України»

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