Burma and the debates to come

Burma is changing, and so are the lines of argument deployed to explain what’s going on.

With this in mind I have enjoyed Elliott Prasse-Freeman‘s three-part series on Burmese politics in the transition era; here are parts one and two. Part one is, many New Mandala readers will want to know, followed be a bit of push-and-shove centered on the always robust Maung Zarni.

Prasse-Freeman finishes his series with a call to arms against the potential for a “neoliberal sweep” of Burma.  He argues that:

Development is here the sacred object, led by ‘experts’ from outside who could (perhaps unwittingly) usher in a quasi-authoritarian neoliberalism where key social and political decisions over the future of the economy and its development would be quarantined in the hands of a narrow elite. The ritual activities of free voting and assembly would be given as so many crumbs to the masses kept outside of real politics.

He then flags some alternative strategies for the country to consider, including Bhutan’s oft-invoked, but little studied, Gross National Happiness model. Somehow I doubt that is the path the country will take but I like the fact that such debates are now possible. 

Long-time readers may recall the times I have endorsed the prospect of (real, not fake) Western fast food chains getting to Burma. Not everyone would agree with my take. And that, of course, is a very good thing.

For now, it looks like the new debates and battles to define Burma’s future are really only just beginning.