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Davos 2011: Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for Responsible Investment in Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi has addressed the World Economic Forum from Burma in a taped address, calling for investors “to put a premium on respect for the law, on environmental and social factors, on the rights of workers, on job creation and on the promotion of technological skills”.

The General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi has spent over 15 years under house arrest following an election victory for her party in 1990. She was freed in November 2010.

Her party has since been ruled unlawful as it refused to register for the recent polls in protest at “unfair and undemocratic” elections. The 65-year old leader has also recently connected to the internet, dismissing warning that the connection will be unsecure saying “I have nothing to hide”.

Read her full statement to the World Economic Forum here:

Distinguished guests – heads of state, government and UN officials, leaders of global companies, representatives of the media, academia, NGOs, and young global leaders: I am very honored and privileged to have this opportunity to address the World Economic Forum in Davos. I would especially like to extend my appreciation to Professor Klaus Schwab and the organizers of this influential gathering of leaders who are committed to improving the state of this planet.

Over the past few years, despite my isolation from much of the world, I have been able to follow closely the global response to the economic downturn through listening assiduously to radio broadcasts. While the challenges were immense, the response was both swift and strong. Of course much still remains to be done. Our global interdependence has compelled and resulted in increased cooperation.

In this context, however, I would like to speak on behalf of the 55 million people of Burma who have for the most part been left behind. We yearn to be a part of the global community:  not only to be economically and socially connected, but also to achieve the domestic political stability and national reconciliation that would enable us to fully address the needs of our people. Economic policies linked to human development and capacity building are the best path to the achievement of stability in a democratic transition.  We have already missed so many opportunities because of political conflicts in our country over the last 50 years.

Despite an abundance of natural resources, Burma’s development has lagged far behind its neighbours. Our government annually spend about 40 percent of our GDP on the military and barely two percent on health and education combined. The young people of Burma need the kind of education that has enabled Young Global Leaders, some of whom are present at this gathering, to excel so early in their careers.

We need investments in technology and infrastructure.  We need to counter and eventually eradicate widespread poverty by offering opportunities that will allow the entrepreneurial spirit of our people to be gainfully harnessed through micro lending programmes. The National League for Democracy (NLD) has in fact embarked on an experimental micro credit scheme on a very small scale.

We need to address the tragic consequences of preventable diseases, particularly in conflict zones and rural areas. At the same time, we also need to pay close attention to the costs and collateral damage of our development, whether environmental or social. These however can be contained if we plan ahead responsibly. In addition to these enormous challenges, we also need to reform our legal system that we might be able to attract foreign direct investment and guarantee the rule of law.

I believe that as necessary steps towards integration within the global community Burma must achieve national reconciliation, political stability, and economic growth grounded in human resources development. Without the first two which are essential for the basic requirements of good governance such as transparency, accountability, credibility and integrity, social and economic development will remain mere pipe dreams.

I would like to request those who have invested or who are thinking of investing in Burma to put a premium on respect for the law ,on environmental and social factors, on the rights of workers, on  job creation and on the promotion of technological skills.  Such an approach would not only be in line with a global sense of responsibility, it would lead in the long run to greater benefits for all concerned.  I look forward to the day when there will be a political and social environment that is favorable to a wide range of investments in Burma. We are certainly in need of innovation and diversification if our country is to fulfill the aspirations of its people and catch up with the rest of the world.

I would like to appeal to all those present at this gathering to use their particular opportunities and skills as far as possible to promote national reconciliation, genuine democratization, human development and economic growth in Burma that our people may in turn be able make their own   contribution towards a safer happier world.

Thank you.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
General Secretary
National League for Democracy

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One comment

  1. A brilliant presentation by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But then she has to spoil it all in an interview in the (UK) Financial Times yesterday by saying that sanctions must stay. These include comprehensive investment sanctions by the US, selective investment sanctions by Canada and the EU, official discouragement of investment by most EU countries, an EU investment blockade against IMF, World Bank and ADB funding and donor resistance inspired by investment sanctions for relief work after Cyclones Nargis and Giri which affected hundreds of thousands of rural people. In short, she calls for responsible investment, and in the same breath says that investment sanctions must stay. What does she really want?

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