Engaging Burma: Weighing the merits of foreign aid


As Burma undergoes a fragile political transition, many are rushing to offer foreign assistance. But some say a slow and measured approach is in order given that the country, also known as Myanmar, is in the middle of immense social and political change.

EngagingBurma_EmbedImage.jpg"We have to try and eradicate corruption and inequality as we proceed toward greater investment. We do not want more investment to mean more possibilities for corruption. We do not want investment to mean greater inequality ..."

Aung San Suu Kyi  is likely the only Burmese person most Canadians know.  For decades, Canada and Burma, also known as Myanmar, may as well have been on different planets.

That said, Burma is beginning to embrace the world again, allowing its president to attend international forums, holding general elections in 2010, and following up with by-elections last year. Canada plans an embassy in Rangoon and is ready to announce its first envoy to Burma, a career diplomat named Mark McDowell.

But Burma spent a long night in isolation and repression. And there are real questions about the government's treatment of its ethnic minorities. So, while foreign governments and NGOs may wish to help, there are concerns over pushing too hard and too fast.

Babak Abbaszadeh - President and CEO of Toronto Centre

For more, we turned to Babak Abbaszadeh. He's the president and CEO of the Toronto Centre, an organization that trains financial regulators and supervisors in emerging markets. He says it's important to help Burma learn how to regulate its financial institutions because a strong economy will help the country inspire confidence in the international community.

Kelley Currie - Senior Fellow, Project 2049 Institute

There's a real concern that Burma is simply too fragile to absorb an onslaught of goodwill and assistance. Critics say any government engaging with Burma needs to take a measured approach. We spoke with Kelley Currie, a senior fellow with Project 2049 Institute.

This segment was produced by The Current's Naheed Mustafa.

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