Sunday, April 10, 2011

NGOs in Myanmar

I had lunch on last Thursday with my accountant who had opened a new office in Peninsula Plaza. His friend, a businessman came for lunch. He is quite a jovial man and I always asked him about Myanmar as I employ Myanmar Vet Technicians and it would be good to understand more about their culture and way of life.

I asked him about "Save The Children" organisation whose notice board I saw in Inle Lake Primary schools and in pre-schools.

"It is an NGO," he said. "I want to start an NGO as it makes money and I have the connections. The sponsors give the NGOs money for the work done during earthquakes and typhoons. The NGOs take around 40-50% of the donation. One of the founders of the NGO has 3 cars and a house now!"

I said: "Nobody works for free. NGO members are not paid a salary and they do take risks going into disaster areas. Will you prefer the money to go the government? In Singapore, the money goes to an organisation too but for that NGO, the money did go to the affected people. Not 100% but at least 50%. What NGO you want to start?"

"Some environment. You know Lake Inle now is not so deep due to the chopping down of trees. The soil fills up the lake and it become shallow in certain areas. Last time, it took 2 hours to travel up and down the lake. Now, it takes half an hour!"

"Save the trees?" I asked. "Or clean water for the villages?"

He said: "Clean water will be very useful for the villages."

I said: "You just start an NGO and think sponsors will give you the money. It is not so simple. Sponsors from Europe are not stupid people. You need a team and credentials and track record. Those NGOs whom you said are waiting for disasters to strike Myanmar and to send in lorries of rice and food are experienced and have been trusted by the sponsors to benefit the affected people!"

I asked him about one of my clients who wanted to sell halal pancreatic enzymes made from bovine, not porcine pancreas and wanted to know how to get a halal licence to export his product. He said: "Your friend has to pay $10,000 and wait 6 months for approval. Nowadays, the government prevents unauthorised drug import. Some years ago, the poor people bought "Pannadol" from China as it was very cheap. They die and it was found out that what they bought was chalk tablets. So, the government now is very strict on this import of drugs. Give me a sample and I will ask my doctor friends to try. In Myanmar, it is the lowest price and not the halal process that counts."

Sick and poor people still buy medicine as they need to get cure. Many businessmen just peddle the fake medicine to them as in all countries, not just Myanmar.

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