– VOA News – Ron Corben’s Report
A new report on Burma’s tax system says it lacks transparency and accountability, and many taxes are paid to corrupt officials. Burma rights activists says arbitrary taxation adds another layer to the economic burdens and rights abuses many Burmese suffer.
A network of human-right organizations says Burma’s military has transformed taxation “into extortion and a tool of repression”. The network’s new report, released in Bangkok, says the government and the military arbitrarily collect taxes in the form of cash, land goods and labor.
The report is based on interviews of more than 340 people during the past two years.
In adition, people are charged arbitrary fees at checkpoints, and forced to pay donations for festivals, school buildings, school registration and equipment.
Alison Vicary, an economist at Macquarie University’s Burma Economic Watch, says, “The system of taxation is oppressive and has no legitimacy; the agencies collecting taxes are actively involved in the control and suppression of the population. That much of the taxation that is actually collected at the local level is going to the incomes of local officials rather than to the central government.”
Rights groups says military- backed organizations have been extorting funds from communities ahead of the November 7th elections. Vicary says the abusive tax system has contributed to Burma’s economic deterioration. She says little will change after the elections in one of Asia’s poorest countries. Cheery Zahau, a human rights coordinator with the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, says the tax system’s lack of accountability makes life harder for most people. Zahau states, ” It added to the problems to the basic survival; the Burmese people cannot save money. They cannot, in many cases, send their children to school; they do not have enough money for hospitals, for health care anymore. So it makes the whole social welfare collapse for the people; it becomes a burden for the people.”
The report says the tax system’s denies most Burmese the right to an adequate standard of living, health care, housing, food and education. The report says international donors, such as development banks, should only give Burma aid when governance standards and human-rights protections have improved.