Corporate secrecy in Myanmar (Burma): a new Global Witness report reveals transparency concerns in the country’s oil, gas and mining sector

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Myanmar’s oil, gas and mining sector has long been plagued by corruption. A new Global Witness report reveals that the owners of the majority of companies recently awarded oil and gas blocks in Myanmar remain hidden. Photo: iStock.com/Brasil2

The government of Myanmar (Burma) is stepping up to improve transparency in its oil, gas and mining sector, which has long been plagued by corruption. President Thein Sein  has promised economic reforms and greater transparency as new investors move into the resource-rich country. But according to Global Witness—the anti-corruption NGO co-founded by 2014 TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch—the majority of companies recently awarded oil and gas blocks in Myanmar have failed to answer questions about who really owns them.

The UK-based NGO has released a report that shows how secrecy surrounding company ownership threatens Myanmar’s fragile progress towards more open management of its oil and gas wealth. Historically, mismanagement of these resources have left Myanmar with some of the worse development indicators in the world. Corporate secrecy raises the risk that even more revenue could be lost to corruption, inflating the bank accounts of the wealthy rather than helping the nation’s population at large.

According to Gooch and Global Witness, anonymous company ownership is routinely used across the world to hide illicit activities from public scrutiny and law enforcement. “Anonymous companies are the global getaway cars for corrupt politicians, gangsters and tax evaders,” said Juman Kubba, an analyst at Global Witness. “They can allow powerful individuals to hide who they are and what they are doing – creating the risk that they could effectively award themselves oil and gas riches at knock-down prices.”

Global Witness is campaigning to put company ownership details into the public domain in order to provide a crucial safeguard against corruption. The survey is the first public review of company ownership in the oil and gas sector in Myanmar and provides a snapshot of what a challenge transparency can be.

Who’s buying up Myanmar’s oil and gas? Read Global Witness’s investigation »

Read an interview with Charmian Gooch on her campaign to end anonymous companies»

Watch Charmian Gooch’s TED Talk on ending anonymous companies »