Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Burma companies pinpointed

February 2005

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has listed 440 multinational companies trading with Burma, including more than 40 new names, in its latest report on business in the country that is widely criticized for its human rights record.

The confederation's 28-page Doing Business with Burma document says investing in the country is impossible without the agreement of the junta, which systematically steers business operations towards joint ventures with state-owned companies. All businesses, says the report, are owned by the military dictatorship or high-ranking officials.

The report shows an overall reduction in investment in Burma during recent years. More and more people, companies and countries are realizing that investing in or trading with Burma makes no sense, either in moral or business terms. Regrettably, says the confederation, a small number of neighbouring countries, partly because of regional power plays, are going against the trend. Business interests from China, India, Thailand and other ASEAN countries are stepping in where others are leaving.

The addition of new companies to the list of those investing in Burma results from continuous research and does not indicate increased corporate interest. The better-known new names are China PetroChemical Corp (Sinopec), China Telecom, Lloyd's of London, Rolls-Royce and the State
Bank of India.

Many large multinational companies have recently left the country. However, some companies, such as South Korea's Daewoo International, Austrian Airlines, SWIFT (Belgium), Total (France), Unocal (USA), Suzuki (Japan) and Ivanhoe Mines (Canada) maintain their links. The confederation reports that the junta devotes more than 40 per cent of its national budget to military expenditure but allocates only 0.3 per cent to healthcare.

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