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Myanmar's global timber trade - doesn't add up - WHY?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/28/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fledgling Asian nation trying to rejoin global community

Citing "criminality and corruption" in the country's timber sector, a United Kingdom-based watchdog group, the Environmental Investigation Agency says that global imports of timber from Myanmar between 2000 and 2013 were three and a half times as large as the quantity it officially exported. This is discouraging news from an Asian nation which is now working towards greater global cooperation and transparency.

An agency discovered the multibillion-dollar 'black hole' by crosschecking the official figures on log harvests and timber exports with data from a U.N. database and the Global Trade Atlas

An agency discovered the multibillion-dollar "black hole" by crosschecking the official figures on log harvests and timber exports with data from a U.N. database and the Global Trade Atlas

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/28/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: myanmar, logging industry, corruption


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Official figures published earlier this month showed that Myanmar exported 6.5 million cubic meters of timber from its forests between 2000 and 2013, while during the same period, countries around the world imported a reported 22.8 million cubic meters of logs from Myanmar.

The agency discovered the multibillion-dollar "black hole" by crosschecking the official figures on log harvests and timber exports with data from a U.N. database and the Global Trade Atlas. The report was published on March 10 by Myanmar's privately owned Eleven Media Group.

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In a report released this week, the agency noted that while the official export figure already indicates unsustainable exploitation of the country's forests -- the reality appears to be far worse.

"The published official timber export statistics significantly under-report the true volume of wood flowing through Myanmar's ports and across its land borders," the EIA said in its report.

The official figure accounts for only 28 percent of all recorded international trade in Myanmar logs, suggesting that 72 percent of log shipments were illicit.

"Such a gap is indicative of widespread criminality and corruption in Myanmar's timber sector," deduced the report.

The EIA estimated the value of the 2000-2013 illegal exports at $5.7 billion, which is four times the country's combined education and health budget for 2013-14.

The size of the officially authorized timber harvest at 11.2 million cubic meters falls short of the import volumes reported by Myanmar's trade partners, "which offer a far more reliable indicator than the Myanmar Government's suspect data", the report said.

"The Government's official data on forestry and timber exports reveals endemic illegal logging and timber smuggling - crimes only possible through institutional corruption on a huge scale," the EIA's Faith Doherty said in a statement.

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