This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001421
STATE FOR EAP/MLS; PACOM FOR FPA; TREASURY FOR OASIA:AJEWELL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2015
SUBJECT: PYINMANA: THE HOUSE THAT THREATS BUILT
REF: A. RANGOON 1346
B. RANGOON 1325 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Econoff TLManlowe for Reason 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) Summary: The GOB has used a variety of incentives,
including political pressure, forced donations, promises of
in-kind payments, cash advances and "free" construction
materials, to induce Burmese companies to build the extensive
government and military facilities in the regime's new
administrative capital in Pyinmana. For years, these firms
prospered from close relations with the regime. Now they
have to pay back, raising questions about how long these
companies will subsidize the massive new construction
envisioned. End summary.
2. (C) The limited scope of official funds has given rise to
many questions about the financing of the over one billion
dollar move of Burma's capital to Pyinmana. One answer is
strong political arm-twisting on most of the country's top
firms to undertake projects and to cover a significant
portion of their own expenses. According to one business
rep, several dozen of Burma's largest construction companies
in Pyinmana "are hurting real bad," as a result of the
regime's inability, or unwillingness, to reimburse
construction costs. A construction industry contact said the
companies complain about the lack of payment, but have no
choice but to continue building. The GOB uses various
methods to (barely) compensate these firms, including:
-- provision of 10% of the total cost of the construction
contract up front, with vague assurances of future payments;
-- payment in kind, including informal promises to hand over
some of the Rangoon buildings to be vacated by the government;
-- government-supplied building materials. State factories
produce many construction materials, such as cement, pipes
and wire, which the government has directed at little or no
cost to Pyinmana projects; and
-- quid pro quo. The GOB can withhold or promise future
contracts for other work based on a firm's participation in
3. (C) The regime directly ordered some local firms to build
in Pyinmana. For example, the owner of a major Rangoon-based
conglomerate told emboff that the SPDC pressured his company
to build a golf course. The company felt compelled to
conduct a site survey and produce plans, but, citing a
shortage of funds and business demands elsewhere, refused to
build it, or manage it once built. SPDC generals were not
pleased, so the company offered the survey and plans for
free. They were readily accepted. The owner of a private
bank was not so lucky, and will, as ordered, build a branch
in Pyinmana. The owner of a furniture factory was ordered to
provide parquet flooring, for which he was paid 25% of the
Contractors Face Rising Costs and Scarce Supplies
4. (C) Increased demand, corruption and a closed market have
caused cement prices to increase from 3,000 kyat to over
5,000 kyat per bag. Only a few close associates of the
regime have distribution rights to cement from the government
factories. One private Mandalay cement factory owner, taking
advantage of this increased demand, plans to double output.
The GOB Trade Council has approved licenses to import cement
from Thailand for only three well-connected individuals
(including the regime's top business crony and arms trader,
Te Za), so that the price of imported cement, slightly higher
than the locally-produced product, has also risen. "The
price is totally supply driven," said a construction industry
5. (U) Adequate numbers of skilled craftsman are not
available in the Pyinmana area for such a large project.
Construction firms recruited skilled laborers from Rangoon,
paying them a premium to work on the new capital. But some
workers, tired of sleeping in tents on site, paying high
prices for food and delays in salary payments, have started
to return to Rangoon, according to a source in the
construction industry. In contrast, the primary contractor
for Post's NEC construction has had no problems finding
skilled workers, according to the OBO Project Manager.
Money From Other Places
6. (C) The GOB cannot rely on crony companies alone, so has
had to tap other sources of funds. We estimate that the
October 20 reduction in fuel subsidies saves the GOB at least
$850,000 a day. Also, business contacts say that Chinese
officials suspect financing they have given for other
purposes has been diverted to Pyinmana. Internal GOB meeting
notes obtained by Post recount an October 21 meeting (the day
after the fuel price rise) at which Prime Minster Lt. General
Soe Win complained about slow processing of Chinese loans.
The PM then assigned Minister of National Planning, U Soe Tha
to expedite the flow of Chinese funds into Burma's coffers.
Contacts in the construction and mining industries said that
work on many other government construction projects slowed or
stopped during the year, and that only companies with
Ministry of Defense contracts in Pyinmana were getting paid.
7. (SBU) Comment: Given the poor investment climate and
slowing economy, the largest Burmese construction firms have
to cultivate cozy relations with the regime in order to
survive. These relations have generated generous profits for
the crony firms. Now, vulnerable to GOB pressure to pay back
previous favors, the firms are compelled to build on demand.
Pyinmana is the largest infrastructure project in modern
Burmese history. We doubt that companies will continue to
build indefinitely without some recovery of their costs.
This could mean a slowing of construction and/or construction
"shortcuts" that could undermine the structural stability of
the new buildings. End comment.
This website hosts an archive of all 251,287 US Embassy diplomatic cables that were released by WikiLeaks between November 28, 2010 and September 2, 2011.
While the cables are generally available at http://wikileaks.org/cablegate.html
, we find it hard to search or even navigate the site to read the cables.
We have made all 251,287 cables available here at Dazzlepod with the hope to make it easier for readers to browse, search, share and discuss about the released cables.
The cables are periodically selected and posted to our Twitter page
and Facebook page
for readers to review them.
For comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org