EITI considering Myanmar’s last-minute request for extension

By THOMAS KEAN | FRONTIER

YANGON — Myanmar has submitted an eleventh-hour application to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Board for more time to complete its second country report.

Myanmar signed up to the EITI – which aims to reveal how much revenue the government earns from extractive sectors and from which companies – under the U Thein Sein government, completing its first report in early 2016.

As Frontier has previously reported, progress on the EITI has stalled since the National League for Democracy-backed government took office. By late last year it was clear that the country would not be able to submit its second annual report by the March deadline.

A spokesperson for EITI said a one-year extension was requested on January 31 – the last possible day to make such an application. Failure to meet the deadline would have resulted in Myanmar being suspended, a prospect that civil society representatives working on the issue had described as “shameful”.

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“The reason given [for the inability to meet the original deadline] is the political transition which resulted in changes in institutional structures, affecting the preparations for the next EITI report,” Ms Gay Ordenes told Frontier.

Under EITI rules, the application must be submitted by the national Multi-Stakeholder Group, a body comprising government, civil society and private sector representatives.

The request also needs to show evidence of “continuous progress” toward meeting the original deadline – something it will struggle to do given there has been almost no progress over the past 12 months.

The government has still not re-formed the MSG, which was disbanded in March when the U Thein Sein administration left office. The application for an extension was instead submitted by an interim MSG, Ordenes said.

She added that the application was “under discussion”, with a decision expected by the end of February or early March.

If the extension is granted, the second report will have to cover two financial years – 2014-15 and 2015-16 – because EITI rules on timeliness require that data used in the report not be more than two years old.

Ko Htoo Aung, a program coordinator for EITI at the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability – a network formed in 2013 to spearhead civil society engagement with the EITI process – said CSOs were pleased that the extension application had been submitted and are expecting it to be approved.

“They [the EITI Board] understand the situation. We explained a lot in the extension [application] letter about the government transition,” he said.

The next step would be to form the MSG, he said, adding that civil society groups had already selected their representatives to sit on the committee.

He said the meeting of the interim MSG had been organised by the Ministry of Planning and Finance and Renaissance Institute, an economic think-tank linked to the NLD.

The EITI coordination office in the MOPF did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

By Thomas Kean

By Thomas Kean

Thomas Kean has been working in Myanmar as a journalist and editor since 2008. Before joining Frontier in May 2016, he edited the English edition of the Myanmar Times for six years.
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