b'says. Thats just too ambitious, and its not realistic. lacking in most emerging countriesa sophisticated civil society, a NRGI also is proposing a review of the gemstone sectors entiretransparent regulatory community that oversees gemstones, access to fiscal structure, including how to streamline the sales process. Thereeducation, he says. There are dozens of people who are doing this currently are several taxes and fees in place, including a 10 percentto a minor extent, working to improve the community where they are royalty on produced stones, according to Aung.extracting these materials. But in most cases, much more effort needs Traders can sell at government-run gem emporiums, but excessiveto be devoted to teaching the local people how to take advantage of fees and taxes during the process make them unattractive to some inthe skills they can develop. the sector, according to Aung.But if theres no market for that material, he adds, none of that Its like a punishing ground for traders, he says.will matter. All this is to say: The NRGI thinks its important for the future ofWhat most of these countries need is cooperationthe educa-Myanmars gemstone industry for the government to find a way totion that we can provide, the financial support and the access to a streamline and simplify the sales process, as well as possibly decen- marketplace.tralize it by building gem centers outside of the capital.Hucker also believes that due to the decentralized nature of the Whats more, how the government interprets and enacts thecolored gemstone industryit is not organized and supported lawand how that will develop, or discourage, theby a few big mining companies in the same way as, countrys gemstone sectorremains to be seen.say, the diamond industryit needs to take Much will depend on the Myanmar GemsWorkers at an iolite small steps to help develop marketplaces Enterprise body, Aung says.mine in Tanzania for local producers and manufacturers in While he says he doesnt see Myan- many countries. mar departing radically from theThese small steps are already being existing model, whats different istaken in several countries, such as in for the first time, the government isKenya, which has built a gem center holding multi-stakeholder dialoguein Voi, a facility that will offer with the industry, civil society andidentification, faceting, trading the community. opportunities, fairs and trainingBut the question remains: Is it tooonce it is open.little, too late? Aung worries this mayThe country has also been be so.pushing the Kenya Gem & Jewelry He says reforms shouldve happenedFair in Nairobi in partnership with the a decade ago, noting the country is at aAssociation for Women in Energy and stage where its mining sector has becomeExtractives in Kenya, showcasing colored notorious for all the wrong reasonsunsafestones and providing educational and net-practices, smuggling and human rights issues suchworking opportunities. as, most recently, its stones being dubbed genocide gemsThere are also programs like gem dealer Tom Cushmans for their link to the persecution of the countrys Rohingya Muslimgemological school in Madagascar, or Columbia Gem Houses Fair populationand might be too far gone.Trade Gems protocols that support local production at the mines GemWorld Internationals Robertson doesnt think it is too littlewhere it sources, such as in Malawi, through sales, development proj-too late, but agrees the reforms in Myanmar are coming at a time whenects and critical needs in the local communities. gem production in the country is much smaller than it used to be. Whether its the industry itself or it is the country, there has to [Myanmar Gems Enterprise did not respond to an email requestbe a cooperative effort to look at this and say, how do we develop for an interview by deadline.] regulatory schemes that actually work? Hucker says. As each country adjusts to its new normal, the changes are bound THE RIPPLE EFFECTS to have ripple effects throughout the international market. While some of the changes these gemstone mining countries areGemworlds Robertson says the moves toward increased benefi-making cause immediate growing pains, any benefits likely will take aciation for countries will change distribution channels, shortening while to become evident. them a bit as some middlemen are cut out, especially in Tanzania. The NRGIs Aung says it likely will be at least a decade beforeAs a result, price increases are likely, especially for higher-quality Myanmar builds enough of an infrastructure to support a market thatstones, he adds. would allow the country to compete and benefit.However, he thinks the market will embrace and absorb the The Tanzania-based gem dealer Periera, too, thinks it will take hisincreases and changes, not only because it has to but also because country a while to smooth out the kinks in the system so that it letsits the right direction to move in given current consumer interest in the market operate in the best way possible.social responsibility and responsible sourcing. After all, the changes that must occur are long-term consider- I think, in general, the market will embrace these things because ations, which can be hard to maintain, American Gem Trade Associa- more and more people are becoming aware of the huge disparity in tion CEO Doug Hucker asserts.wealth between the retail end of the market and some of these pro-Everything that you need to produce value-added economies isducing nations, concludes Robertson. NATIONAL JEWELER 65'