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Burma

(Union of Myanmar)

Traditionally one of Asia’s wealthiest countries, Burma has badly suffered from internal conflict and economic mismanagement by various military governments for over half a century, which has made it one of the world’s poorest states.

The “Burmese Path to Socialism” that was based on a philosophy of ethnic nationalism and economic isolationism, ultimately was a path to disaster.

Although the country officially abandoned its isolationist economic policies following the demise of military leader Ne Win in the late 1980s, the country continued to remain isolated from most members of the international business community. This was principally due to the poor human rights record of its military governments, in particular the political repression which occurred in the wake of elections in 1990, when the National League of Democracy (NLD) headed by Aung San Suu Kyi won a clear majority of seats that was not recognised by the military junta.

In a bid to gain greater international legitimacy, the country held elections on 7 November 2010. While these were boycotted by the NLD at the time, and the new civilian government was initially seen as little more than puppet to the military, subsequent events indicate that there is some serious political will for more reforms and openness.

Roughly one half of the country’s populations and landmass belongs to a diverse range of ethnic groups, that are quite distinct from the Burmese, and political control by the latter was the source of long running resentment and resistance. While the majority of these have made peace with the Burmese, there are credible reports of on-going repression against Rohingya Muslims in the West of the country, and the potential for conflict with other groups, particularly the Karen, is still high.

Economy

The Burmese economy is characterised by a very large primary sector, while the secondary and tertiary sectors are small compared to other countries in the region. This low base presents a strong prognosis for growth and opportunities for foreign investment in almost all sectors.

Endowed with extensive natural resources, including oil, gas, gemstones, and other minerals, the extractive industries account for a large share of Burma’s inward investment, which currently comes principally from China, Thailand, Singapore and India.

The country’s rich natural environment and cultural heritage also make it a highly attractive for tourism. This sector is now rapidly growing, with many opportunities for hotel and resort construction and operation, plus other tourism-related services.

However, legal safeguards continue to remain weak and other business risks, such as the security situation in many parts of the country, make it a highly risky place to do business.

Illegal trade in drugs, wildlife and other products banned by international conventions also remain a major concern in the normalisation of the country’s economy.

NOTE ON SANCTIONS

The EU, USA and other Western countries imposed sanctions on Burma in the mid 1990s, prohibiting financial and other economic transactions with the country, which mostly remain in place. However, following Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to the Europe in 2012, these are being to be lifted by the EU and other countries are following suit.

 

Population: c. 60,000,000  
Capital City: Naypyidaw (created in 2006), formerly Rangoon (Yangon)
Government: Transition from Military Dictatorship to elected government
State Languages: Burmese (official), Chinese, Karen, Shan, other minorities
GDP per capita (PPP): $1,400 USD
Growth Rate: 4%-12%

External Links

  • http://www.myanmar-business.org/ (Myanmar Business Network). Interesting website dedicated to the development of Myanmar economy by promoting entrepreneurship, foreign direct investment, and best management practices.
  • http://www.myanmars.net/myanmar-business/ (Myanmar Business and Economy). Useful  information to do business in Myanmar, with an interesting sections dedicated to matchmaker, laws, banks,  insurance, business information, import and export products.
  • http://www.mmtimes.com (The Myanmar Times). Free newspaper with articles and commentary on the business environment and specific sectors in Myanmar.

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