IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Chettiars in Burma


  • Sean Turnell

    () (Department of Economics, Macquarie University)


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

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First Version, 2005
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. King, Mervyn A & Wadhwani, Sushil, 1990. "Transmission of Volatility between Stock Markets," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 3(1), pages 5-33.
    2. Oliver Linton & Esfandiar Maasoumi & Yoon-Jae Whang, 2002. "Consistent Testing for Stochastic Dominance: A Subsampling Approach," FMG Discussion Papers dp407, Financial Markets Group.
    3. Nelson, Daniel B, 1991. "Conditional Heteroskedasticity in Asset Returns: A New Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 347-370, March.
    4. John Wei, K. C. & Liu, Yu-Jane & Yang, Chau-Chen & Chaung, Guey-Shiang, 1995. "Volatility and price change spillover effects across the developed and emerging markets," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 113-136, May.
    5. Wu, Guojun, 2001. "The Determinants of Asymmetric Volatility," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 14(3), pages 837-859.
    6. Miyakoshi, Tatsuyoshi, 2003. "Spillovers of stock return volatility to Asian equity markets from Japan and the US," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 383-399, October.
    7. Garry F. Barrett & Stephen G. Donald, 2003. "Consistent Tests for Stochastic Dominance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 71-104, January.
    8. Panayiotis Theodossiou & Unro Lee, 1993. "Mean And Volatility Spillovers Across Major National Stock Markets: Further Empirical Evidence," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 16(4), pages 337-350, December.
    9. Lorenzo Cappiello & Robert F. Engle & Kevin Sheppard, 2006. "Asymmetric Dynamics in the Correlations of Global Equity and Bond Returns," Journal of Financial Econometrics, Society for Financial Econometrics, vol. 4(4), pages 537-572.
    10. Diebold, Francis X & Mariano, Roberto S, 2002. "Comparing Predictive Accuracy," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 134-144, January.
    11. Poon, Ser-Huang & Taylor, Stephen J., 1992. "Stock returns and volatility: An empirical study of the UK stock market," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 37-59, February.
    12. Kaltenhäuser, Bernd, 2002. "Return and volatility spillovers to industry returns: Does EMU play a role?," CFS Working Paper Series 2002/05, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    13. Baillie, Richard T. & Bollerslev, Tim, 1990. "A multivariate generalized ARCH approach to modeling risk premia in forward foreign exchange rate markets," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 309-324, September.
    14. Bekaert, Geert & Harvey, Campbell R., 1997. "Emerging equity market volatility," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 29-77, January.
    15. Nicholas Apergis & Anthony Rezitis, 2003. "Agricultural price volatility spillover effects: the case of Greece," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 30(3), pages 389-406, September.
    16. Apergis, Nicholas & Rezitis, Anthony, 2001. "Asymmetric Cross-Market Volatility Spillovers: Evidence from Daily Data on Equity and Foreign Exchange Markets," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 69(0), pages 81-96, Supplemen.
    17. Baele, Lieven, 2005. "Volatility Spillover Effects in European Equity Markets," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(02), pages 373-401, June.
    18. Bekaert, Geert & Wu, Guojun, 2000. "Asymmetric Volatility and Risk in Equity Markets," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 13(1), pages 1-42.
    19. Engle, Robert F & Sheppard, Kevin K, 2001. "Theoretical and Empirical Properties of Dynamic Conditional Correlation Multivariate GARCH," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt5s2218dp, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
    20. Engle, Robert & Colacito, Riccardo, 2006. "Testing and Valuing Dynamic Correlations for Asset Allocation," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 24, pages 238-253, April.
    21. Glosten, Lawrence R & Jagannathan, Ravi & Runkle, David E, 1993. " On the Relation between the Expected Value and the Volatility of the Nominal Excess Return on Stocks," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 48(5), pages 1779-1801, December.
    22. Lin, Wen-Ling & Engle, Robert F & Ito, Takatoshi, 1994. "Do Bulls and Bears Move across Borders? International Transmission of Stock Returns and Volatility," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 7(3), pages 507-538.
    23. Hamao, Yasushi & Masulis, Ronald W & Ng, Victor, 1990. "Correlations in Price Changes and Volatility across International Stock Markets," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 3(2), pages 281-307.
    24. Bollerslev, Tim, 1986. "Generalized autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 307-327, April.
    25. Abhyankar, Abhay H., 1995. "Trading-round-the clock: Return, volatility and volume spillovers in the Eurodollar futures markets," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 75-92, May.
    26. Ng, Angela, 2000. "Volatility spillover effects from Japan and the US to the Pacific-Basin," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 207-233, April.
    27. Jorion, Philippe, 1986. "Bayes-Stein Estimation for Portfolio Analysis," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(03), pages 279-292, September.
    28. Angel Pardo & Hipòlit Torró, 2007. "Trading with Asymmetric Volatility Spillovers," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(9-10), pages 1548-1568.
    29. Mario Reyes, 2001. "Asymmetric volatility spillover in the Tokyo stock exchange," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer;Academy of Economics and Finance, vol. 25(2), pages 206-213, June.
    30. Charlotte Christiansen, 2007. "Volatility-Spillover Effects in European Bond Markets," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 13(5), pages 923-948.
    31. Christiansen, Charlotte, 2003. "Volatility-Spillover E ffects in European Bond Markets," Finance Working Papers 03-8, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Business Studies.
    32. Conrad, Jennifer & Gultekin, Mustafa N & Kaul, Gautam, 1991. "Asymmetric Predictability of Conditional Variances," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 4(4), pages 597-622.
    33. Billio, Monica & Pelizzon, Loriana, 2003. "Volatility and shocks spillover before and after EMU in European stock markets," Journal of Multinational Financial Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4-5), pages 323-340, December.
    34. Vance Martin & G.C. Lim & Esfandiar Maasoumi, 2004. "Discounting The Equity Premium Puzzle," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 331, Econometric Society.
    35. Ming-Shiun Pan & L. Hsueh, 1998. "Transmission of Stock Returns and Volatility between the U.S. and Japan: Evidence from the Stock Index Futures Markets," Asia-Pacific Financial Markets, Springer;Japanese Association of Financial Economics and Engineering, vol. 5(3), pages 211-225, November.
    36. Engle, Robert F & Ito, Takatoshi & Lin, Wen-Ling, 1990. "Meteor Showers or Heat Waves? Heteroskedastic Intra-daily Volatility in the Foreign Exchange Market," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(3), pages 525-542, May.
    37. Martens, Martin & Poon, Ser-Huang, 2001. "Returns synchronization and daily correlation dynamics between international stock markets," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1805-1827, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    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:


    Access and download statistics


    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: .

    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.