Wed 28 Feb 2007
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Foreigners working in Burma for the UN and international NGOs are paid up to 25 times more than local staff, according to a Rangoon journal article that has won applause from Burmese readers.
The article, in the Burmese-language journal Ray of Light, was written by Dr Saw Lwin, who claims to work for several international agencies in Asia. He wrote that while local UN and NGO staff members are paid between US $200 and $500, expatriate salaries range from $5,000 to $12,000.
Expatriates receive additional benefits such as housing, travel allowances, health and other insurance, overseas retreats and the reimbursement of school fees for their children. Many live in exclusive areas of Rangoon, such as Golden Valley.
Saw Lwin said UN agencies and international NGOs were in Burma to help development, but he accused them of behaving like â€œmasters.â€ Instead of â€œacting like masters, these foreign expatriates should take their responsibilities with accountability, transparency, according to international norms,â€ he said.
About 70 foreign and local NGOs and UN agencies are registered in Burma. Senior local staff members can earn up to $700 per month.
Saw Lwin questioned the proportion of aid funds spent on salaries and overheads compared with the amount reaching the grassroots, local people and the needy.
He called for public participation to enable ordinary Burmese to become actively involved in development projects. â€œIt is the responsibility of all-grass-root members, civil servants, government authorities, donor countries and INGOs, and whoever wish for the development of the native countries.â€
Saw Lwin’s article received applause and endorsement from local NGO members and staff. A senior editor at Ray of Light told The Irrawaddy by phone, â€œThe issue [raised by Saw Lwin] is exceptional and can hardly be found anywhere [in Burma]. People like it and many people read it.â€
International NGOs begun to flourish in Burma in 1993 when the UN launched a project called the Human Development Initiative. Since then, a number of INGOs have established themselves in Burma with sub-contracts from the UN, while some have signed â€œmemorandums of understandingâ€ with the military government and its ministries.
Most of the NGOs currently working in Burma are employed under sub-contracts with the UN Development Programme.Â Most of these are involved in health and social welfare work.