Recent socio-economic transformation processes in Myanmar
Panel organised by: Frauke Kraas (Universität Köln), Nicole Häusler (Universität Eberswalde)
Myanmar is, latest since 2010, experiencing strong and multiple processes of socio-economic transformation. They can be characterised as follows: To date the rich potential of the landscape and natural resources has only been partially tapped. Agriculture provides employment and thus the economic basis for a large proportion of the population. The many political and economic reforms passed after 1988 and particularly after 2010 aim to improve countrywide infrastructure, promote the private sector and attract direct foreign investment. They promote decentralisation of the administration and institutional transformation, the eradication of price controls and subsidies, the modernisation of the tax and customs system, the diversification of the export sector, the improvement of import and export procedures, and the restructuring of wages and prices. They also provide increased freedom of choice for farmers in terms of the crops they cultivate and the processing, transport and trading of those products. Moreover, comprehensive reforms target the education and health sectors, emphasising modernisation, internationalisation, and growing efficiency and competitiveness.
Obstacles to the mobilisation of financial investment and human capital are related to ongoing problems of macro-economic stability, extensive bureaucracy, infrastructural deficits, economic diversification, a lack of openness of the economic sectors to foreign competition, and restrictions on the transfer of foreign capital and profits. However, privatisation measures of recent years have led to the emergence of manufacturing, trading and services companies that supplement the large state-owned enterprises with their export trade. Of growing importance are companies in textile, garment and food production there and service-oriented enterprises, especially in the expanding tourism sector. Foreign investment is over-concentrated in the metropolitan areas of Yangon and Mandalay, little attention is yet given to regional centres. Only in tourism, strong efforts can be observed towards a diversification of destinations, quality upgrading in touristic infrastructure, standards and marketing. In the education and health sectors, comprehensive curriculum improvements, quality control, privatisation and re-organisation takes place.
Against this background, the panel aims at analysing and discussing recent socio-economic transformation processes of the country, including recommendations for country-wide improvements and for Myanmar’s States and Regions.