United States billionaire investor George Soros has agreed to set up a philanthropic base in Burma, following his recent visit and meetings with the country’s leaders, including opposition figure head Aung San Suu Kyi.
The business magnate and chairman of Soros Fund Management said in a statement yesterday that he was travelling in the junta-controlled country “in his capacity as a philanthropist.”
In a report that appeared in Democratic Voice of Burma, Soros said he planned to establish an “official presence” in the country to aid “the transition from a closed to a more open society”, following his 26 December to 3 January trip to Burma.
Soros, who amassed his fortune from speculating, has given away billions of dollars to philanthropic causes in recent years. His Open Society Foundations is said to have donated $2 million each year in educational projects in Burma.
The country, though, remains subject to tough sanctions on international aid and funding, and was left impoverished and isolated by nearly half a decade of military rule.
However, things are looking brighter for the South East Asian nation. Following U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “historic” visit to Burma in December, many are expecting a loosening of sanctions.
Since last month, several foreign ministers including those from Japan and Britain have visited the country and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an acknowledgment of Burma’s steps towards gradual reform.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “government advisers have described the reforms “irreversible” and the U.S. has responded by lifting a block on development assistance to the country, effectively freeing up specialists from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to help Myanmar officials liberalize their ossified economy.”
The European Union, who imposes similar sanctions as the U.S. in opposition of Burma’s detention of over 2,000 political prisoners, is looking to open a representative in Yangon “as soon as possible” to manage aid programmes and promote political dialogue, reported Reuters.
Burma, is largely touted to be Asia’s next emerging economy, and has a wealth of natural gas, gems and timber.