IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/mac/wpaper/0512.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Chettiars in Burma

Author

Listed:
  • Sean Turnell

    () (Department of Economics, Macquarie University)

Abstract

In the history of Burma's political economy, few groups have been so roundly vilified as the Chettiars. A community of moneylenders indigenous to Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, the Chettiars operated throughout the Southeast Asian territories of the British Empire. They played a particularly prominent role in Burma where, alas, they were typically demonised as rapacious usurers, responsible for all manner of vices concomitant with the colonial economy. Not least of these was the chronic land alienation of the Burmese cultivator. The purpose of this paper is to reappraise the role of the Chettiars in Burma. Finding that their role was crucial in the dramatic growth in Burma's agricultural output during the colonial era, the paper disputes the moneylender stereotype so often used against them. Employing modern economic theory to the issue, the paper finds that the success of the Chettiars in Burma lay less in the high interest rates they charged, than it did to patterns of internal organisation that provided solutions to the inherent problems faced by financial intermediaries. A proper functioning financial system could have provided better solutions perhaps for Burma's long-term development, but Burma did not have such a system, then or now. Easy scapegoats for what went wrong, the Chettiars merit history's better judgement.

Suggested Citation

  • Sean Turnell, 2005. "The Chettiars in Burma," Research Papers 0512, Macquarie University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mac:wpaper:0512
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.econ.mq.edu.au/research/2005/chettiar.pdf
    File Function: First Version, 2005
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q14 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Finance
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • N25 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Asia including Middle East

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mac:wpaper:0512. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Helen Boneham). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/edmqqau.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.