World News

Myanmar blames "extravagant" Americans for crisis

YANGON (Reuters) - Military-ruled Myanmar, one of the most isolated countries in the world, has largely escaped the global financial upheaval triggered by “extravagant” Americans, state media said on Thursday.

The former Burma relied on few imports and its main trading partners, India and China, were suffering less than others in the current economic downturn, a commentary in several state-owned newspapers said.

“I dare say that our country does not need to worry about the global financial crisis,” the article said.

Newspapers are tightly controlled by the military, which has reduced a once-promising economy and country to an impoverished international pariah after more than four decades of rule.

Noting that the financial crisis had been spawned in the United States, the article said: “Americans are a people who are extravagant and do not hesitate to buy an elephant if it is available on credit.”

Some independent observers were less optimistic about Myanmar’s ability to sail through the crisis.

Despite abundant natural gas, minerals and timber coveted by China, India and other regional neighbours, Myanmar is among the world’s poorest countries due mainly to the failed policies of a reclusive regime.

“Our economy is already in very bad shape. So it couldn’t be worse,” said a retired professor, noting that the main city, Yangon, experienced 20-hour blackouts each day.

Returning migrant workers had little hope of finding work after losing their jobs in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, where factories are closing or cutting production due to the global economic slowdown.

A member of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry said export industries were already feeling the pain of slowing demand.

“There has been a steep drop in orders for some major export items such as garments and rubber,” the businessman said.

The global economic downturn is a further blow to a tourism industry struggling to recover in the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in May, and the junta’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2007.

In the ancient capital of Bagan, home to 1,000 year-old temples on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, the lack of tourists in the traditional peak season is threatening many with ruin.

“The lacquerware industry depends on tourists, but it is now facing a critical condition,” one hotel operator said, adding that many artists were abandoning the centuries-old industry.

Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Dean Yates