Thursday, July 31, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Major Aung Linn Htut Open letter to Than Shwe
*King Thalun was the King the white Tsu-lar-mani Pagoda in Sagaing, which is recognizable by its large white dome. He built this pagoda to fulfill the wish of his late wife. King Thalun was a contempary of the Moghul King Shah Jahan of
Than Shwe had a jade Buddha statute based on his image at around the age of 40 built and placed in the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is widely believed that foreign leaders and dignitaries are guided to the image to pay homage to ‘Than Shwe’.
Friday, July 11, 2008
NOT MUCH BANG FOR THE AID BUCK
FUND for HIV/AIDS IN
The handing over of money to the international NGOs, UN agencies,
7) Pyi Gyi Khin (Darlings of the Big Country)
The MMA received the smallest amount of funds from FHAM, at USD21,390. To be fair to the organisation they only received the funds to tide them over after the Global Fund left. For this money the MMA (or members of the organisation) apparently achieved the following:
- tested 591 people for sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The number of those testing positive was not disclosed and whether they were treated effectively was also not provided. It is not clear if this was the total number tested or the increase in the numbers tested (by whom exactly is not clear)
- treated 1,487 people with HIV/AIDS for opportunistic infections. No information was provided about the nature of the treatment, the infections or the results. It is also not clear, if this was the total number of people treated or the extra amount that could be treated given the funds provided
- referred 76 people for HIV tests
The MNA received around USD91,000 for projects in 2003/04 (the first funding round). Despite receiving this money they did not manage to impact on any of the so-called performance indicators developed by FHAM. The MNA was not directly funded in the following rounds and maybe their lack of performance was the reason, but became part of a ‘consortium’ headed by Save the Children (UK). So based on the information provided by FHAM the USD91,000 added nothing to improving the health of the people of
The MHAA as with the MMA only received the funds at the end of the FHAM, to cover them after the Global Fund stopped funding projects in
- 38, 206 (very precise) condoms were distributed.
seems to be awash with condoms. The issue is whether people are using them regularly, not the number being given away. Burma
- Conducted 28 health education sessions on HIV/AIDS for 15,148 young people (of which 604 received counseling). So on average there were 541 people at these gatherings, rather large for health education on such sensitive issues. There is no information that such gatherings are successful in communicating information about HIV/AIDS, and more importantly in affecting behaviour. There is no information about where the education sessions were conducted, advertised and the reasons people attended. Incentives are an important determinant of behaviour and new information, even if properly understood, does not necessarily change behaviour.
- 13,249 pamphlets were distributed. Presumably people attending the education sessions were provided with some pamphlets. Not that there is anything wrong with pamphlets, but there mere existence provides absolutely no indication that behaviour of those reading pamphlets changes. How many smokers have seen “DON’T SMOKE” and continue to do so. No NGO working in a Western country could get up and state we distributed blah number of anti-smoking pamphlets. People would ask, but yes what has happening to number of people smoking.
- 190 peer educators trained. Again this tells us nothing about impact. There is no information even on the quality of the training, the length of the training, and what the peer educators learnt from the training. What were the incentives of those undertaking the training? Did they have nothing else to do? How active are they in the communities? Training people is one thing, but does not tell us anything about quality and what the educators are doing.
- 310 people were given HIV tests
- 195 people referred for HIV tests
The MRCS seemed to engage in lots of meetings and distributed lots of condoms. Not much for a ½ million USD. Lets look a bit more at what they did
- 411,378 condoms distributed - again did they put them on?
- 6 Mass Awareness Sessions held by MRCS. It seems that 21,689 young people were educated at these sessions. They must have been big events with more than 3,5000 young people attending each. Of the 21,689 young people reached, 3,259 were reportedly provided with counseling. FHAM reports this as video shows, TV spots, public talks, festivals. Possibly unfairly, but mass awareness sessions in Burma brings to mind having to listen to mind-numbing speeches given by mind-numbed government apparatchiks to people, who have been rounded up and forced to listen. We might be cynical, but if any of the poor participants were left awake at the end, maybe they picked up something about HIV/AIDS, but who knows what.
- 30,917 pamphlets or HIV/AIDS educational materials distributed, possibly at the mass rallies. At least local the printeries must be doing well. (Wonder, who owns them?) Am I being cynical to suggest that there might be lots of pamphlets lying around in some near empty MRCS warehouse? Hopefully, they were put to better use pasted on the walls of people’s homes to improve insulation.
- 2 Workshops for healthcare providers and 91 peer educators trained
- 72 people referred to services for sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe after the mass meetings or a discussion at the tea-shop, the educators tell their peers “Hey you better go and get a test. Could have caught something”
- Lots of Meetings
- 46 advocacy meetings
- 48 multi-sector meetings
Does anything more need to be said about this? The New Light of Myanmar comes to mind. The meeting was held and advice was given.
- 5 drop in centres (established or run was not specified) and 58 workshops were held, presumably in the drop in centres. From this 868 intravenous drug users (IDU) were reached. 1 of these was referred for drug treatment, and 96 received HIV tests.
- 48,000 syringes were distributed, though none were 868 – an usual needle exchange program. It is not clear, who obtained the syringes, but presumably they were distributed to the 868 IDU’s reached.
- Total of 9 reports, which included 8 evaluations, reviews and 1 survey were undertaken. None of these have been made public.
- 13,649 condoms 30,995 pamphlets distributed
- 110 health education sessions & 10 mass awareness sessions, though no-one was reported as being reached. Maybe there was no-one at the meetings. 31 advocacy meetings were also held, though it is not clear, who with or what for.
- 91 peer educators trained & 14 workshops. It is not clear that these are in addition to the original training provided for the 91 peer educators, or whether it took 14 workshops to train 91 peer educators
- 10 workshops for non-health professionals & non-peer educators
- 2 large companies with HIV/AIDS policies
- 38 people referred for HIV tests
- 142,599 condoms and 335,000 pamphlets were distributed
- 33 advocacy meetings were held, though there is no information for what or with whom these were held. Another 83 multi-sectoral meetings were also held, with no more information provided.
- 30 peer educators trained and 5 workshops for peer educators. As with the MBCA it is not clear that it took 5 workshops to train the 30 peer educators or these were in additional to the original education provided.
- 689 education sessions held, where 462 were reached, with 29 receiving counseling. As only 462 people were reached, some of these education sessions must have been without participants.
- 1 needs assessment and 1 base-line study were conducted. Again these are not publicly available.
- 418 people were given HIV tests
- 400 received with AIDS received home based care
- 1,012 with HIVS were treated for opportunistic infections
Comparison of the Costs of Outreach of Burmese NGOS
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Average No. People at each Health Education Session
Cost of each Education Session
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
This table shows, for a range of countries:
* the ratio of 2007 GDP per capita on a purchasing power parity basis to that for Burma (source: CIA World Factbook)
* the rate of annual growth in real GDP per capita required for Burma to reach the country's 2007 PPP GDP per capita in 50 years
* the number of years it will take for Burma to reach the country's 2007 PPP GDP per capita if Burma's real GDP per capita continues to grow at its long run (1953-2003) average rate of 2.9% pa (source for long-run growth data: Angus Maddison's 1-2003 AD database)
* the number of years it will take Burma to converge to the same GDP per capita as the country in 2007 PPP terms if both continue to grow at their respective long-run (1953-2003, Maddison) averages
Some points of explanation are in order. The two numbers in each column reflect different population figures used to calculate per capita GDP. In a macabre sense, the CIA figure for Burma is 'best-case' as they use a population figure adjusted for excess mortality due to AIDS (47,758,181). The latest official figure (apparently the SPDC was able not only to run an astonishingly successful referendum and an incredibly painstaking damage assessment in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, they also managed to slip in a census as well!) is considerably higher at 57,504, 368. The first number in each set is based on the CIA figure of $1900 per capita in 2007, the second is based on the official population which yields a GDP per capita of $1620. Only countries that had an estimate of GDP per capita for 2007 and that were ahead of Burma on at least one of the measures of GDP per capita are included. Some countries lack the data required to compute the long-run growth rates needed for the convergence calculation and so have no entry in the final column. Countries with a red 'X' in the final column have long-run per capita growth rates that exceed Burma's 2.9% - if these relativities are maintained then convergence will never occur. Obviously, average growth rates decline with time (typically 100- year average rates, where available, are 4/5 of 50-year rates in the Maddison data) so a red 'X' does note that convergence is impossible - but in these cases Burma would have to outperform the countries in question very significantly historically speaking in terms of both growth rates and duration for it to occur.
The data confirm Burma's status as one of the poorest countries in the world, and the striking distance between it and many countries considered mediocre rather than stellar performers. The median GDP ratio (using just those based on the CIA estimates) is 5.4 - hence 50% of countries in the sample have per-capita incomes that are more than 5.4 times that of Burma's when compared on a common value (PPP) basis. 25% of listed countries have incomes that are more than 12.8 times that of Burma. 25% have per-capita incomes that are at most 2.3 times the size of Burma's - which means that 75% of the sample are more than twice (and a bit) as wealthy as Burma in 2007 on a per capita basis.
These gaps require time to close. Hence, at its current long-run per-capita growth rate, Burma is a generation away from matching the current living standards of say Jamaica, or Jordan and given a life expentancy of 63 years (according to the CIA world factbook) the representative person born now need not expect to live to see Burma as well off as Venezuela, Libya or Gabon. The temporal ground to cover to reach contemporary Western European levels of income per capita stretches to a century and beyond. Actual convergence times (although less relevant as policy goals) measure several centuries in many cases.
Catch up can be faster if growth rates are higher - but Burma's position at the back of the pack means that if catch-up to current standards is to occur within 50 years, growth rates will have to rise now to 'Asian Tiger' levels. For example, catching up to where Trinidad & Tobago is now in 50 years rather than in 80+ years will require real per-capita growth of 5% per annum for those 5 decades - a prodigious feat of extreme historical rarity. Adding an extra 1% to the long-run rate and maintaining it for 50 years (the difficulty of which must not be underestimated) will see Burma's income per-capita rise no higher than that of Libya or Venezuela now.
It is easy to underestimate the significance of the ratios in the first column - doubling per-capita income in real terms may not seem like a particularly onerous task. Historical experience tells a different story. The following table of historical comparisons is based on the Maddison dataset. It shows the historical points of comparison for a selection of countries in terms of ratios of GDP per capita in constat-dollar PPP terms. The ratios in question are the quartiles of the set of 2007 ratios to Burma as discussed above.
So, for example, 75% of the countries selected in 2007 had per-capita incomes which were more than 2.3 times that of Burma. What exactly does that imply? Well according to Maddison's 1AD to 2oo3AD data, for Australia GDP per capita in 2003 was 2.3 times what it was in 1963. Hence the gap between 75% of the countries examined and Burma in 2007 was greater than that between Australia in 2003 and Australia in 1963! In other words, comparing Bolivia to Burma in 2007 is like comparing Australia in 2003 to Australia in 1963. The median ratio was 5.4 - this ratio is comparable to that of Australia in 2003 to Australia in 1904! So that is the comparative situation to the Belarus:Burma ratio in 2007, and 50% of countries in 2007 were further ahead of Burma in relative terms than 2003 Australia was of 1904 Australia. The third quartile ratio of 12.8 is equivalent to that of Australia in 2003 to Australia in 1847 on the Maddison data. So the contemporary gap between South Korea and Burma is comparable to that which took Australia 150+ years to traverse. 25% of our sample of countries are further ahead than this. The maximum ratio (42.5 for Luxembourg) equates to the comparison between Japan in 2003 and Japan in 1500. In a very real sense, at historically observed growth rates over the long-long-run, Burma is currently centuries behind the world's most well-off nations. The importance of periods of sustained rapid growth is evident for the entries for Asian countries in the table; the effects of long periods of stagnation are clearly identifiable in the Brazlian and Mexican experiences.
The point of these numbers is not to instil despair but clear thinking. The calls for increased aid for Burma after Nargis often appear based on the mistaken idea that international disparities in income are like pie-distribution problems: the North currently has too large a slice and so what is required is a trimming thereof and a redistribution to reduce inequality. As such, the problem of international disparities appears solveable by a kind of lump-sum transfer, a transaction at a point in time (e.g. more aid). This 'synchronic fallacy' fails to take account of the fact that disparities can only be eliminated by growth (a process in time, 'diachronic') at appropriate rates. Nothing will eliminate the disparities unless it causes the poorer countries to grow faster. William Easterly's work on growth spells out quite clearly that aid does not do this, and his work specifically on aid performance shows some of the reasons why.
Growth can only occur if the economic environment is conducive to (provides incentives for) productive activity. Pouring aid into toxic economic environments achieves nothing - as the history of aid expenditure shows. It need not even achieve its immediate objective: this chart shows for Burma the share of total health expenditure accounted for by 'external financing' after household out of pocket expenditure has been removed and external financing reduced by the measured expenditure of NGO's - in other words the share of external financing in total 'government' health expenditure in Burma. What is clear is that increasing external financing (rising by a factor of 7 between 2000 and 2006) has led to pari passu reductions in expenditure by the regime: health spending has not increased so much as changed in composition to be virtually all aid-driven. Thus greater aid for health spending doesn't necessarily lead to more health spending (which isn't surprising: the initial problem is that the regime chose not to devote sufficient resources to health expenditure; why would handing them money alter their motivation?). As for health, so for other aspects of ODA.
What Burma desperately needs is a rapid change in the economic environment - by one means or another. Regime change is required to permit transition to a growth path that can close the gap to reasonable economic health in an acceptable timeframe. The 'Asian Tigers' experience shows that this need not entail liberal democracy immediately, but it also shows that a relatively rapid transition to democracy may require the disruptive and catalytic effects of sustained growth at extremely high rates. Growth performance like that requires an environment that provides the right incentives (in terms security of property rights etc) that the Tigers had and Burma manifestly does not. Propping up the regime with increased aid will lead to mediocre growth and negligible prospects for endogenous institutional transformation. We need to look beyond the time horizon of self-interested individuals and NGO's who are content to feed the flames rather than put them out. The people of Burma need revolution, not reproduction of their grim status quo.