In his Sept. 3 letter, “Sanctions don’t impoverish Burma,” Donald Seekins takes issue with Brahma Chellaney’s Aug. 29 article, “U.S. should engage Burma,” over the particular point of whether sanctions impoverish the Burmese people or not. (Seekins said it would be premature to drop all economic sanctions.) If you take “sanctions” to include the serious interruption of bilateral aid programs from 1988 onward and the simultaneous blocking by the West of all funding from international financial institutions (IFIs) like the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, then I am more inclined to agree with Chellaney than with Seekins.
Because of these particular sanctions, Myanmar found itself at the bottom of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s list of 38 “fragile states” in 2007, with only $4.08 per capita of foreign aid, lower than any other country. This denial of aid from IFIs has bound to have had a direct effect on the living standards of the population, which Seekins might well recognize through his plea for a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid.
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