Gas Week

EWN Publishing

Soaring fuel prices trigger for Burmese protests: unfair quota system in place

Posted by gasweek on 17 October, 2007

A surgeon in a public hospital in Burma earned $US15($17) a month and ran private clinics after hours to make ends meet, wrote Connie Levett in The Sydney Morning Herald (9/10/2007, p. 9).

Fuel price increases were a trigger issue: Heads of government departments earned $US14 a month until late 2005, when the Government increased salaries tenfold to stem dissent about the move to a new capital, Naypyidaw, in central Burma. The tenuous economic position of most Burmese families had made fuel a trigger issue. The unrest dated back to August 15, when the military junta increased the official price of fuel by up to 500 per cent without warning; prices of compressed natural gas increased 500 percent, diesel doubled and petrol rose 67 per cent – leading to protests by pro-democracy activists. They had been arrested and the monks had taken over, at first calling for relief for the people from economic hardship, only later for greater democratic freedoms.

Iniquitous quota system prevailing: The taxi driver who queued each day in Rangoon had a receipt book that allowed him nine litres a day (270 litres a month). In Mandalay, the next-biggest city, the quota was smaller, at only 27 litres a week. A government official got 13.5 litres a day. Down at the military depot, the Rangoon regional commander received a quota of 400,000 litres a month. “Regional commanders get rich because they sell their quotas,” an economic analyst in Rangoon had said.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9/10/2007, p. 9

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