Jade sector ranked 83rd among 89 countries assessed

An institution that ranks countries rich in natural resources has given failing or poor marks to the governance of Myanmar’s gemstone and oil and gas sectors.

The 2017 Resource Governance Index assesses how a country manages their oil, gas and mining resources in order for all people in a resource-rich country to benefit.

Myanmar’s gemstone sector was ranked 83rd among 89 worldwide assessments, scoring 27 of 100 points. Myanmar’s oil and gas sector fared slightly better, ranking 77th among 89 assessments, with a score of 31 of 100 points. The index is produced by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).

Results released yesterday said Myanmar suffered from structural shortcomings and the urgent need for better regulatory oversight, transparency provisions, and revised legislative and fiscal frameworks. The report also pointed out the connection between jade and internal conflicts.

“Myanmar’s long-running internal conflicts have been partly financed by the gemstone sector in general, and jade in particular. Central to the issues facing Myanmar’s gemstone sector is transparency, the data show, with the government disclosing almost no information related to the licensing process, contracts or the identities of those with ultimate financial interests in trading companies or the sector generally.

Gemstone licensing in Myanmar is the second-least transparent of all countries’ licensing systems, with an index score of four of 100 points; only Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector ranks lower. Due to its opaque set-up, Myanmar Gems Enterprise (MGE) received a score of 16 of 100 points for governance, making it one of the most poorly governed state-owned economic enterprises (SEEs) covered in the study”, according to a statement released yesterday. But the report also said this was an opportunity to improve the industry.

“The gemstone sector now has the potential to play an important role in the country’s future. Improved transparency throughout the sector, particularly in licensing, ownership, production and revenue data, and improved valuation, taxation and collection of revenues, would be a huge step towards better governance”, according to the statement.
“The findings of the Resource Governance Index re-emphasise the need for Myanmar to get the right the new Gemstone Law currently being discussed in Parliament,” said Maw Htun Aung, NRGI’s Myanmar manager.

The Myanmar Gemstone Law of 1995 effectively separated jade and gemstones from the rest of the mining sector, making it easier for a handful of elites to control the sector. In the country’s oil and gas sector, there are also challenges that need to be confronted, the report said.The Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) scored 35 of 100 points in governance.

“Since MOGE is one of the most important revenue contributors to the state budget, NRGI calls for further improvements. For example the oil and gas sector licensing process scores only 24 of 100 points. In terms of revenue contributions, MOGE does not report annually on its finances or operations, representing a serious failing in oversight. The government has already announced that SEE reform is a priority in its twelve-point economic plan for the country. This plan includes a greater transparency and reporting of finances and taxes to the public, and the restructuring of SEEs to be more competitive and economically viable”, according to the statement released yesterday.

The statement from NRGI said the reforms are key for ensuring that Myanmar’s oil and gas wealth benefits the economic development of the country, and can contribute to the peace process.

“In the context of Myanmar’s peace process, resource- rich, conflict-affected regions of the country have called for greater sharing of natural resource revenues and management responsibilities. Governance challenges evidenced by the index results point to a need to improve transparency as the first step toward designing a system that distributes benefits equitably and allows oversight of compliance with the rules,” added Maw Htun Aung. The results of the Resource Governance Index are available at: www.resourcegovernanceindex.org.

Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar

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