Sunday, August 20, 2017

NLD finance minister admits to bogus PhD

The new government’s likely choice for the role of Minister of Planning and Finance is a lower house member of parliament for Dagon Seikkan township, a business consultant and a little-known member of the party’s economic committee.

A Pakistani policeman stands guard outside the offices of Axact in Karachi, Pakistan. Authorities last May arrested the head of the company, accused of running a global fake degree racket after investigators founds thousands of blank diplomas in the company’s headquarters. Photo: EPAA Pakistani policeman stands guard outside the offices of Axact in Karachi, Pakistan. Authorities last May arrested the head of the company, accused of running a global fake degree racket after investigators founds thousands of blank diplomas in the company’s headquarters. Photo: EPA

One of 18 new ministers proposed by the president-elect to parliament yesterday, 68-year-old U Kyaw Win has also worked in the ministries of finance and planning and as a senior lecturer at the Myanma Computer Company training institute, he told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

His curriculum vitae, made public by the National League for Democracy, shows that he holds a master’s degree and a PhD from a college in the United States called Brooklyn Park University.

Or so it seemed. The claim was abruptly put to bed after a Facebook user with the account name “Win Thu” posted a picture of the future finance minister’s official CV, together with links to a New York Times investigation. The post was quickly shared nearly 500 times.

The New York Times revealed last May that a Pakistan-based software company called Axact had built a fake universe of more than 370 academic websites, including one for a “Brooklyn Park University”, and had scammed hopeful academics across the world out of tens of millions of dollars.

Asked yesterday evening whether his degrees were bogus, U Kyaw Win said that they were.

“I am not going to call myself ‘Dr’ any more, as I know now that it is a fake university,” he told The Myanmar Times.

He has penned a number of articles on economics and finance in journals and business magazines under the names M Kyaw Win and Dr Kyaw Win.

“I tried to contact a university in California in 2005 but I failed to get in. Later in 2008, I joined an online course at Brooklyn Park University. I started to study for a thesis but did not complete it. The PhD on my CV is not a real qualification.”

In reality, he has never studied in the US. He worked for the department of planning for more than 20 years and for another seven in the department of finance, he said.

The list of ministers submitted by President-elect U Htin Kyaw to parliament did not specify which ministries they would oversee, but U Kyaw Win confirmed that he has been put forward for the finance and planning role. An official announcement is expected today.

In addition to the two false degrees, U Kyaw Win’s official resume states that he was born in 1948 in Labutta township, Ayeyarwady Region, studied basic higher education in Pathein and graduated with a bachelor of economics from Yangon Institute of Economics.

He served in the planning department from 1972 to 1997 and the Revenue Department from 1992 to 1997, and has since served as an economic adviser to the party.

Asked about his plans for the economy if his nomination is approved by parliament, U Win Kyaw said he would “develop the economic sector according to [the NLD] manifesto” adding that it is too early to announce reform priorities.

“We know which reforms need to be made and we will make sure that our policies materialise,” he said.

The party outlined a range of economic reforms in its election manifesto last year, based on five “pillars” – fiscal prudence, lean and efficient government, revitalising agriculture, monetary and fiscal stability, and functioning infrastructure.

It describes reducing wasteful spending and privatising “appropriate” state-owned enterprises in an open and transparent way, running a transparent budget and cleaning up the taxation system – targeting tax evasion and corrupt officials.

Property rights will be respected, the agriculture sector will be modernised, farmers will be granted full production freedoms and foreign companies will be invited to farm virgin land.

According to the manifesto the Central Bank of Myanmar will also be dramatically restyled as a genuinely autonomous institution and the financial sector will be liberalised.

U Han Thar Myint of the NLD’s economic committee said he believes the new minister can enact effective policy across the industry. “We have seen that his personality is honest and reliable,” he said.

Other officials from the finance ministry said yesterday they were not familiar with U Kyaw Win, whose career to date has been spent out of the limelight. U Zeya Kyi Nyint, director general of the Internal Revenue Department, said yesterday that he had not heard of the new finance minister.

“Anyway, I think the change is positive, even though we don’t know anything about the organisational structure [of the finance ministry] under the new government,” he said.

A former general manager at state-owned Myanma Economic Bank (MEB) who asked not to be named questioned whether U Kyaw Win will be able to manage the ministry with authority, given his former positions as a junior official. Nevertheless, the NLD has deemed him suitable, he said.

“I hope we will see some remarkable changes in the financial sector over the next five years,” he added.

There are 11 departments and state-owned financial institutions with a total of over 20,000 staff under the Ministry of Finance, while the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development (MNPED) has six departments.

Ministry spokespeople said earlier this week that these numbers will change this coming April, as the departments are likely to be reorganised.

Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance U Maung Maung Win said change is inevitable.

“Either way, we had already planned to extend our capacity and restructure the ministry.”