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Revenue Transparency in Burma

Natural gas is the most lucrative industry in Burma, accounting for 70 percent of all foreign exchange reserves with sales totaling around US$3 billion annually. Had these billions of dollars gone into the state budget, they would have accounted for 57 percent of the total budget revenue. Instead, according to the International Monetary Fund and others, they contributed less than one percent of total budget revenue. Much of this revenue reportedly never enters Burma and the account balances, disposition, ownership and control, and even the location of the regime’s accounts are shrouded in secrecy.

Instead of benefiting the people of Burma, gas sales have fueled corruption, conflict, and revenue misappropriation. A lack of transparency and accountability facilitates this misappropriation.

Where has this revenue gone? Who is benefiting?  How much revenue is actually accruing to the state from the gas sales? Even the International Monetary Fund acknowledges that less than one percent of Burma's natural gas revenues ever enter the country, and instead end up in foreign banks. Until now, both the gas companies and the Burmese junta have failed to disclose details of this critical information.

Burma is one of very few countries in the world where the current leading voluntary transparency initiative, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) is currently impossible due to repressive conditions. The Burmese authorities have demonstrated no interest in disclosing details about the billions they receive from gas sales or in participating in EITI, and while there is a vibrant civil society in Burma doing important work under difficult conditions, their ability to genuinely participate in such initiatives would be challenging, at best, due to the ongoing repression of the military regime.

In this context, a global movement has emerged calling on companies that operate in Burma to unilaterally disclose their payments to their Burmese partners.

A Call for Revenue Transparency: The Yadana Project

The Yadana natural gas project — operated by the French oil company Total, in partnership with Chevron, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand Exploration and Production (PTTEP), and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) — is one of the two largest official sources of revenue for the Burmese junta and has generated over US $7 billion in sales since it began operations over a decade ago.

On April 27, 2010, a global "Call for Total, Chevron, and PTTEP to Practice Revenue Transparency in Burma (Myanmar)" was issued for the Yadana companies to promote transparency and accountability in the extractive sector in Burma by voluntarily publishing over 18 years of payments to the Burmese military regime. The statement was endorsed by EarthRights International and over 160 non-governmental organizations, labor unions, investment firms, scholars, and policy leaders, including the former Prime Minister of Norway and the former President of Ireland. These prominent groups and individuals are calling on the Yadana companies to assist the people of Burma in holding their government accountable for the revenues that the government receives on their behalf.