Up to 90% of Burma's state-owned industry will be transferred to the private sector. But who will benefit?
As an "official" parliament will sit on 31 January for the first time since Burma's original dictator, Ne Win, abolished the last, more legitimate one in March 1962, Burma's minister of industry, Khin Maung Kyaw has concocted a bold economic move.
Maung Kyaw told local press earlier this month: "Up to 90% of state-owned industry will be transferred to the private sector as the country makes its transformation to democracy," adding: "This doesn't happen only in Myanmar [Burma]; other democratic countries also use the same practice."
The last sentence is perhaps the most telling and rich with deceit, for few economic schemes anywhere are shrouded in as much secrecy, or lack what the World Bank would term "conditionalities".
Maung Kyaw is a military man, but one would assume that he knows, as Burmese economist Aung Thu Nyein told the Guardian, the largest recipient of state-owned assets is the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH).
Which, the economist adds, is a "parastatal" company "run by the military's quartermaster general".
So as the official dynamic of Burmese politics shifts and the military changes its clothes, it has not forgotten to empty the pockets first.
As Burmese economist Professor Sean Turnell notes: "This demonstrates how Burma is not a normal developing south-east Asian nation."
The military, however, will not be the only beneficiaries. In their capacity as power-brokers they have developed a circle of business cronies. Business families who have built empires in the middle of an economy that was once the envy of the region and where now the UNDP estimates that Burma has a GDP in terms of purchasing power parity of around $881, compared with impoverished Cambodia's $1,619.
Among these cronies, perhaps the most notorious is Lo Hsing Han, a former CIA ally from northern Burma.
Han's empire was, according to Burma scholar and author, Bertil Lintne, built on heroin. "There is no other way," the author notes in his seminal work on the drug trade in Burma, Merchants of Madness.
Han's family owns the Asia World conglomerate, which has taken ownership of lucrative wharves along the crumbling Rangoon riverfront, where the remnants of this colonial city melt into the tropical air and the apathy of military rule.
Their other operations read like a Chinese state shopping list. From giant dams in the foothills of the Himalayas to a pipeline that will traverse the country, carrying Burma's natural gas to China.
Such projects will light and power that country's transformation, while Burma's cities bathe in a darkness inspired by decades of mismanagement; Asia World are the prescribed sub-contractors.
This bold "privatisation" experiment, however, is not without its discontents, even within the military junta. In true Burmese fashion, a whisper has emerged that the energy minister, Brigadier General Lun Thi is not happy. From under his feet the crucial business of distributing fuel to the populace has been transferred to the junta's cronies.
A handful of companies now run some 246 official, privatised filling stations in major cities.
Turnell points out that fuel prices are always politically sensitive, and were believed to be partly responsible for the popular uprisings in 2007 and 1988. As a result fuel prices were capped at roughly $2.50 a gallon for sale to the public while retailers buy the fuel at roughly $2.30.
Such margins provide little if any incentive to expand distribution and increase the number of stations in remote areas, resulting in rationing and long queues at official pumps and a flourishing black market petrol priceshave roughly doubled in some areas.
In all probability the companies themselves are involved in the black market, just to make ends meet.
Lun Thi, it is therefore believed, is waiting for the mess of fuel privatisation to blow up in the faces of the cronies and their military sponsor, Than Shwe, so that Lun Thi can then reclaimthe politically powerful role of fuel distribution.
Not only is the bidding for ownership of state-owned enterprises a closed process, but there is also a strong likelihood that such cronies would simply be told by the military what to do.
Such a modus operandi was elaborated in a WikiLeak. The cable not only showed the world the general's desire to buy Manchester United but also speculated that he simply told this gang of businessmen to open football clubs, and in return gave them mining concessions.
While Burma's state-owned enterprises are in a decrepit state, few apart from the state-run mining partnerships break even, and the natural gas revenues (the country's most lucrative export) are alleged by the Turnell and others to be held in Singaporean bank accounts to be spent on one of Asia's largest standing armies and murky weapons programmes.
And so in the middle of this economic upheaval, little seems to have changed on the streets, where a disgruntled black-market money-changer wades through Burma's dual exchange rates. He mimes a noose around his neck to describe the economic tragedy of this mineral-rich country.guardian.co.uk