Talk about Newsnight


British investment in Burma

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Sep 07, 04:11 PM

Last night, during our coverage of the unfolding situation in Burma, we reported claims that the government has not stopped British companies trading with the Burmese regime and that Britain is the second biggest foreign investor in that country.

miliband_203nn.jpgDuring the interview that followed, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband rejected these claims, and said that as far as he knew there were no major companies still investing there. But he promised to clarify the situation and post it on the website.

You can see the Foreign Office statement, and a response from the Burma Campaign UK, by clicking here.

Tell us what you think...

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 05:05 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Bill Bradbury wrote:

The Burma Campaign response comes as no surprise and validates Milliband's view is that Britain is not a major investor. Unless we have all been on another planet or in the land of ZOG, are not most of the so-called "British" companies now foreign owned and "Investment" is made by subsidiaries or multi-Nationals which are a law unto themselves? (or their investors/shareholders)

Lewis Carroll's words meaning what we want to mean comes to mind! The days when mere politicians (or Paxman) has any control over where money is to be made or invested has long gone. Governments do as they are told by big business or they will take their factories/refineries elsewhere.
The Military in Burma will do what it wants until there is either an armed uprising or people power which we witnessed in the Balkans.

So who is right? Well both Milliband and Paxman/Newsnight are correct depending upon the definition of Britain/British/investment and who benefits. I bet it is not the British taxpayer! It makes a good story and a change from the "usual suspects" which are regularly trotted out on Newsnight. Burma and its problems is the next media interest for the forthcoming weeks and months.

  • 2.
  • At 05:50 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

Looks like Newsnight got it much more wrong than Milliband did. Frankly, I would question the Burmese authorities more, as a source, than I would the foreign office, especially when the information provided by the Burmese authorities was over three years old.

And looks like Newsnight got it even more wrong in the extremely rude way the British Foreign Secretary was spoken to during the interview.

No-one is perfect but Milliband deserves a public apology for the way he was publically treated last night (and i am no supporter of Labour or Mr Milliband but he is the Foreign Secretary of this country and deserves respect for the responsibility he holds, even if you disagree with him.)

  • 3.
  • At 06:33 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Derek Tonkin wrote:

Here are the facts:

The latest figure for cumulative approved investment from the UK (including BVI, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands) is US$ 1,591.0 million in 43 projects. Source: JETRO table 1988-mid 2006. Realised investment, however, is nowhere near 100%, but it must be a matter of speculation what funds have actually been transferred. An FTUB paper commented in 2005 that: "Since 1990 Western countries disbursed more than 80% of investment that they committed, accounting for about 65% of actual FDI. ASEAN countries only about 31% of committed investment, accounting for less than 35% of committed investment over the decade."

So we do not know what percentage of this US$ 1,591.0 million was actually disbursed, bearing in mind that some of this investment was ASEAN (including Burmese) investment registered in, though not actually transferred through, the BVI etc. The Premier Oil Investment alone was in the region of US$ 600 million, or probably over half of all disbursed UK investment. The BAT investment, on the other hand, would have been recorded (as BCUK say) as a Singapore, and not a UK investment.

Indirect UK investment is impossible to estimate. The modest "pilot" investments of the Beta Mekong Fund (of which I was Chairman) would not have been recorded at all because they were made through Thai, Singapore and Hong companies.

In short, the statistics issued by the Investment Commission of Myanmar are only a very rough guide to direct contracted investment, but give no idea at all of the current level of retained UK investment, which is marginal

Most UK investment has now been liquidated through trade sales, though ASEAN companies who have parked their shares e.g. in the BVI may well still be in business.

Derek Tonkin
Network Myanmar


Paxo was certainly naughty in his treatment of Miliband – but perhaps he was already aware of the latter’s pomposity from previous experience. I had not spotted it before, but the combined head-thrust and eye-pop, as given by dowager primary teacher to small child, displayed the extent of the ego of this Foreign Secretary come lately. Fortunately, as I watched, Miliband once more morphed into Mr Bean complete with prehensile lips and fantasy-hairline. Catharsis!

  • 5.
  • At 08:27 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • John Molyneux wrote:

I don't think we need to return to the days of "Minister, have you a message for a grateful nation?" but the splenetic "Don't patronize me!" from Newsnight's leading presenter to the country's Foreign Secretary was an eye-opener in revealing JP's view of his position in relation to one of the senior members of the government.
This on the day when JP published an e-mail to Newsnight viewers in which the delivery of the minister's speech was described -
"as if he was the school swot being asked to talk at Speech Day"

Patronizing? Moi?

  • 6.
  • At 10:19 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • John McGinty wrote:

'he is the Foreign Secretary of this country and deserves respect for the responsibility he holds, even if you disagree with him.'

JP was abrasive in his questioning but DM responses were aggressive. I was more concerned with the dismissive posturing of JP to the other set of questions but I also understand why: a Foreign Secretary gives a speech to his party about foreign policy at a conference where there is no debate of the two conflicts that our troops are involved in.

Judge a man by his actions not by his intentions.

  • 7.
  • At 10:24 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • paul davis wrote:

Until the UK and US governments can deliver democracy to a people who actually want it - like Burma, then they should stop telling everyone else how brilliant it is

  • 8.
  • At 10:53 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Kevin Quinn wrote:

I'm glad I wasn't the only one taken aback by the antics of the Foreign. We all know what to expect from Paxman but I was surprised at Miliband's cod-toughness and his willingness to "play handbags" with Paxo. Looking at it more deeply, it did make me wonder if Miliband has lived enough of life to be where he is. You've got to have lived and sacrificed a bit to do his job. Has he lived enough?

  • 9.
  • At 10:57 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Alan Cunliffe wrote:

For god sake just admit when you get something wrong. You got your facts wrong about our trade with Burma. David Milliband righly quoted his briefing about major UK companies not trading with the the regime. Have you spent the whole day chasing any company with any trade with this despotic regime just to save face.

I expect better of newsnight and the BBC. Not to mention Jeremy Paxman and Paul Mason. If you are going to attack people with the wrong information at least have the grace to admit when you get it wrong.

  • 10.
  • At 11:11 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • S Edgerail wrote:

Newsnight responds: "We note that the Foreign Office has not provided more details to support David Miliband's claim on Newsnight that no major companies are now investing in the country."

Oh dear, you got caught out, and now you're saying that the Government needs to prove a negative!! If Newsnight asserts that major UK companies are investing in the country, Newsnight should prove it. Isn't that called "journalism"?

  • 11.
  • At 11:28 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • John Morrison wrote:

Kouchner's statement on immediate French business brown-field divestment from Burma was a surprise this evening. There is nothing on the French networks yet. Does anyone know any more.

As this 'discussion' 'unfurls' (or, possibly more accurately, oozes to oblivion), I am I suppose getting nearer to some clue to what's going on. But that's no thanks to the Political Leadership of this country or the national broadcaster. What a team.

If this is how we are being represented at government level in matters of explanation and negotiation involving Foreign Affairs I think I'd best start building a bunker. And if this is how the competence of those entrusted with our country's future are to be effectively challenged to explain themselves, I guess I'll... um... what can I do, again?

Other than the half dozen left or so who might be so inclined to look back in archive, this whole mess will be lost, leaving any with some memory of the original exchange still in deep confusion and disappointment.

Whatever happened to professionalism? We had a pol who could barley restrain his loathing of all in front of him (beside camera and at 'tother end) as inconveniences to the grand plan (Version 2. Version 1 now deleted, and WE MUST NOT FORGET IT), and a celebrity interviewer who could barely restrain his loathing of that fact.

Sorry, no, that’s wrong. Neither did restrain anything, barely or otherwise. Save getting and offering enlightenment on topic.

They just let egos rip, with truth and clarity and respect for the electorate and viewership flying out of the window. And I bet now the principals can blame various unidentified minions for letting them down, and the whole thing can whizz off on a distracting tangent leaving the actual issue unaddressed and many questions hanging. Way to go guys!

Is this how we are now to be (micro)managed? An authority figure appears on air and appears to know nothing and commit to less. Then a spat ensues that solves nothing, leaving us to be drip fed undebated sound bites subsequently, to pick up on a website if we can find them?

And while I find it hard to imagine how a few score of those who do stay with such as these blog pages can really be worth the effort, it is proving a trial trying to pick around the stuff that is getting lobbed in here by the spinners at the expense of some worthy comment and attempt at debate.

There are what could be press releases drafted by spin doctors on both sides, masquerading as ‘Joe Public', and now a new quirk, the spoiler. These are the quite frankly bizarre ramblings that are either designed to discredit one side (by association) or the other (by being too obviously designed that way). Or, most likely, simply the process. Sadly this is a moderated blog's (and I recognise the necessity here) greatest weakness. I'm now seeing those who would seek to deliberately get moderated just to raise doubts as to the objectivity of the totality.

Are we really at a point where those theoretically in charge and/or representative of our interests are so irrelevant in comparison to those we can’t see (or vote for/against)? Especially when they see their mission as being to pull any strings necessary to have things simply being seen to be done as they see fit?

While of some value, that's why blogs (and most editable print) can never compare to live, streamed, noddy-free broadcast. Until now. As all parties seem to have found a way to render even this meaningless.


  • 13.
  • At 11:26 AM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Debbie Howard wrote:

"The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) figures for current active UK investment are very low. For example in 2005, the DTI recorded UK foreign direct investment flows into Burma as negligible (i.e. not more than £500,000)."

Contrast these "very low" and "negligible" amounts with their celebrated financial support for local communities in Burma:

"The British Government supports community-based organisations in Burma. For example, in 2007, £400,000 was given for Internally Displaced People through Buddhist and Christian groups in eastern Burma. Over three years, £500,000 has been given for grassroots-level support to civil society organisations."

By their own terms these contributions are "negligible" so why bother? So far Britain's support for the Burmese monks and students who are risking their lives to stand up for their belief in democracy (a position we supported with military action in Iraq) has amounted to nothing but hot air. The Foreign Secretary's hypocrisy sickens me.

  • 14.
  • At 12:47 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • david roberts wrote:

I sit there and see what is happening and prey that the people will rise together. please support the protests and lobby your mps, msp,meps and who ever. let them know that nations may not be able to interfere with a countrys internal problems, but peopl can support people who are being beaten, killed and what ever else for the sake of despots.

  • 15.
  • At 02:39 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

If the US/UK/EU is so opposed to investment in Burma because of its constraints on 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'Human Rights', why do they all invest so heavily in China?

  • 16.
  • At 06:25 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Debbie Howard wrote:

"The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) figures for current active UK investment are very low. For example in 2005, the DTI recorded UK foreign direct investment flows into Burma as negligible (i.e. not more than £500,000)."

Contrast these "very low" and "negligible" amounts with their celebrated financial support for local communities in Burma:

"The British Government supports community-based organisations in Burma. For example, in 2007, £400,000 was given for Internally Displaced People through Buddhist and Christian groups in eastern Burma. Over three years, £500,000 has been given for grassroots-level support to civil society organisations."

By their own terms these contributions are "negligible", so why tell us? So far Britain's support for the Burmese monks and students who are risking their lives to stand up for their belief in democracy (a position we supported with military action in Iraq) has amounted to nothing but hot air. The Foreign Secretary's hypocrisy sickens me.

  • 17.
  • At 05:49 PM on 28 Sep 2007,
  • Alan Miller wrote:

My barber, who is a peace-loving man, believes he has the solution to the Burma problem. He reckons that a cruse missile with the Generals name and address on it would do the trick. My own preference would be for everyone to boycott the chinese olympics if China doesn't immediately bring the Junta to heel. And they could if they wanted to.

  • 18.
  • At 09:53 AM on 29 Sep 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

When Hitler (a National Socialist like Stalin, rather than Intenational Socialist or Trotskyist):

abandoned the gold standard, abolished unearned income, and took other measures to limit the power of international finance *and* Bolshevism (Trotskyism) (as did Stalin in the 1930s note), he too set Germany up to be 'liberated' and have 'democracy' restored.

To better understand Burma, think of China, its NE neighbour, which builds its roads through the mountains and uses her Western seaboard to export the goods it carries them over. Think of the liberation of Vietnam (now Marxist), the recent coup in neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh, the failed liberation of S American economies, the catastrophe for the people of the USSR in the 1990s (and Putin's recent efforts to reverse this) when it was economically liberated, the liberation of Iraq, the ongoing threats to N Korea (and the war of liberation in the 1950s), the threat to Iran. Note how all planned economy leaders are called dictators (unless they are temporary allies), and see Lee Bollinger's speech for one of the clearest examples of vilification that one is ever likely to see/hear).

I would be a lot happier with the USA's position viz Iran if I didn't have to keep re-translating what the former assert is the case (even what the IAEA writes gets a spin once in their hands) and if countries like Iran in the Middle East didn't have a case for a) going nuclear for energy in order to be able to sell more of their oil and b) acquiring the *technical ability* to produce nuclear weapons in order not to be threatened by others who not only already have them, but rely on them to exert pressure (Israel and the USA).

In each of these cases which were sold as liberations by the West, how did the people of the politically/economically liberated countries benefit rather than the economies of the liberators? Those who still think about this will understand why many of the countries fighting imperialism call themselves People's Liberation xxxxx. This is because they know that people are not all born equal in ability, and that this means they need protecting from economic predators.

As a Westerner who has no doubt benefited from this economic imperialism (masquerading as free market liberal democracy), I think it's hypocritical to brand the governments of Burma and Iran as despotic/'nazi' just as it was to vilify Germany in the late 1930s. If people truly want what's best for Burma etc, they need to look far more closely at what the country's government is *trying* to do. To build an economy, one has to have human capital. That is born not engineered through education. This is something which China has learned. It takes generations for positive eugenics legislation to work through into population change and reverse dysgenic fertility, (again, see China's 1990s eugenics legislation, and see, in contrast, the ECHR articles which proscribe eugenics, and promote equality).

Who knows, the way things are going in the UK (low birth rate, high differential fertility, high levels of unskilled immigration)

we might soon end up with a 'despotic' government ourselves (if we don't have one already ;-). That, of course, can't happen if we sign up to the European Treaty and Fundamental European Charter of Human Rights (ECHR), as it essentially proscribes any form of government/economy which is not social democratic (of one colour or another ;-).

  • 19.
  • At 12:40 PM on 29 Sep 2007,
  • Alan Miller wrote:

Does Adrienne (Newsnight blog 29 September) really think Burma's leaders are "trying" to do what is best for their country by repressing and shooting thousands of its people? That isolating themselves from the rest of the world is a good thing? Have I missed something?

  • 20.
  • At 01:04 PM on 29 Sep 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

#22 Think of China 1989. So yes, you may be missing something. From the Burmese government's perspective, whether we see it this way or not, as they see it, they are dealing with sedition. China will see it the same way, as will many other countries.

Here are some references for any sceptics about the Chinese eugenics (anti-dysgenics) legislation 1995. This is why China's mean IQ is at least 8 points higher than the European/USA mean, and will continue, as will their GDP which is highly correlated with mean IQ as one would expect.

Consider the pressures on emigration and implications for EU immigration (not to mention the problems we face with large scale immigration of the unskilled from S Asia and Africa). One changes one's population through making changes to fertility, not through education. In fact, education, education, education *does* have an effect on fertility, it is highly likely to increases dysgenesis through further tilting differential fertility over several generations. One estimate is that the promotion of female emancipation and thus entry into the workplace by the more able 50th percentile and above may have decreased IQ in the +2SD band and above by 60% whilst increasing the proportion of the population -2SD and below by 60% over the last 5 generations. This is not picked up by all modern IQ tests which are relational tests within a peer group. These have to be restandardised every generation in order to control for inter-generational environmental erosion of their reliability/validity. The 22nd August Newsnight on the Flynn Effect was a little misleading given that ability is largely genetic and hereditary.

  • 21.
  • At 01:11 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • pippop wrote:

Love the picture of Milliband and finger.

The listening politician.

Look no wax in my ear.

  • 22.
  • At 01:18 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • pippop wrote:

Or to steel from Bob Dylan.

You don't need a Milliband to know which way the wind blows.

  • 23.
  • At 10:57 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Tim B wrote:

#19 Alan - I think it's even worse than that. Adrienne appears (from what I can figure out from her post) to believe that *Hitler* was trying to do what was best for his country. And I haven't read those links about eugenics, but it strikes me that that too is a mistaken road down which to go. Ditto her support for the Beijing massacre of 1989. I would suggest that Adrienne is best ignored.

  • 24.
  • At 07:50 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

#23 There's more to what I've been saying than you seem to appreciate.

Germany took on Bolshevism as it was threatening to wreck Europe in the 1920s/30s. That was not the same as taking on Stalinism ('Democratic Centralism' or 'Socialism in One Country' aka 'National Socialism'), he made a pact with that in 1939.

Trotsky's Bolshevism (a Worker's Democracy) was overwhelmingly voted out in 1924, but Trotsky continued to subvert the democratically centralist system which had been overwhelmingly voted for. It's a different type of democracy to ours, but it's still democracy.

Hitler was also voted into power. He was doing what his people wanted, so did we!

'TONY BENN: the case of Chamberlain and Hitler, Chamberlain supported Hitler. I’ve got hold and have got at home the captured German Foreign Office documents reporting what Lord Halifax, the British Foreign Secretary, said on behalf of
Chamberlain to Hitler. He said, ‘I’ve come, Herr Chancellor, to congratulate you on destroying
Communism in Germany and acting as a bulwark against Communism in Russia.’

One needs to look very closely at what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Look at what 'Shock Therapy' did to Russia in the 1990s. 'Democracy' comes in many forms. Until Mao's death, China regarded the USSR as 'revisionist' and they even went to war over it at times. Mao saw the Soviet revisionism as destined to collapse into capitalism. There were mixed groups in the square in 1989, the students were singing The Internationale, not 'God Bless America'. One banner famously said "Heaven gave Russia a Gorbachev but only gave China a Deng Xiaoping" and another allegedly "Where is China's Lech Walesa?", but look what happened to Russia in the 1990s. Remember, Gorbachev was trying to reform communism, not to abandon it. That was done via Yeltsin who acted in breach of Article 121-6 of the existing constitution, along with Western Friedmanite 'Shock Therapy' ('The Boys in Pink Shorts...' and ultimately, the Oligarchs).

Is that what you'd like to see happen in Burma? Or perhaps you'd prefer the democracy that we've gifted Iraq?

If one looks more closely at Polish Solidarity (which the Chinese regarded as "The Polish Disease") in the early 1980s, one will see that it was essentially Trotskyite but still 'communist'. Solidarity wanted a Workers Democracy, not western liberal democracy.

How much of what we've been told about the USSR was Western propaganda? How much of what we've been told about Germany in the late 1930s and 40s is a consequence of the post war de-nazification propaganda designed to spread liberal democracy and the free-market? Why is Holocaust denial an offence in so many European countries today? The facts don't matter incidentally, denial per se is the crime. Is that freedom of speech and research?

Be careful about what you wish for. Those campaigning for 'freedom and democracy' may not end up with what they wish for, just less of what they once had. What we see today is mass de-regulation which benefits some financially, but decreases law and order, hence all the Home Office legislation passed by New Labour.

I suggest you look far more closely into how and why authoritarian governments come about, why they are sometimes necessary, and why they try to limit liberal democracy for the good of their people. How many people who bought shares in the great de-nationalisation of BT and Gas (which the people already owned) still had them a few years later? The people who do this know what working people are prone to do, so they take advantage of them, just as sub-prime mortgage salespersons do. This is what 'dictators' protect their people from. Always look at the demographics, and don't assume uniformity in self-control/impulsivity.

"In the 1980s capitalism triumphed over communism. In the 1990s it triumphed over democracy."
David Korten, The Post-Corporate World.

"The free market is 'socialism' for the rich: the public pays the costs and the rich get the benefit - markets for the poor and plenty of state protection for the rich."
Noam Chomsky, USA writer.

"If democracy is ever to be threatened, it will not be by revolutionary groups burning government offices and occupying the broadcasting and newspaper offices of the world. It will come from disenchantment, cynicism and despair caused by the realisation that the New World Order means we are all to be managed and not represented."
Tony Benn, UK politician.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence, clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."
H L Mencken, 1920.

"The Soviet Union will not deliberately start general war or even limited war in Europe. Soviet foreign policy has been cautious and realistic [and has] continued to make contacts in all fields with the West and to maintain a limited but increasing political dialogue with NATO powers."
UK Foreign Office secret document from 1968, declassified in 1999.

"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervour - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil... to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded."
General Douglas MacArthur, USA (1957).

Finally, on Burma:

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