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Firing up Myanmar’s economy through private sector growth

Myanmar’s reintegration into the global economy presents it with a unique opportunity to leverage private sector growth to reduce poverty, share prosperity and sustain the nationwide peace process.

Boris Sullivan

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bicycles Myanamar street view

Myanmar’s reintegration into the global economy presents it with a unique opportunity to leverage private sector growth to reduce poverty, share prosperity and sustain the nationwide peace process.

For much of its post-independence period, Myanmar’s once vibrant entrepreneurialism and private sector was stifled by economic isolation, state control, and a system which promoted crony capitalism in the form of preferential access to markets and goods, especially in the exploitation of natural resources.

Myanmar’s economy reintegration into the global economy

Reflecting this legacy, private sector firms are still burdened with onerous regulations and high costs, dragging down their competitiveness and reducing growth prospects.

Since 2011, Myanmar has returned to the global market place – sanctions have been lifted and the economy is increasingly opened for trade and investment.

Between 2011 and 2014, export and import trade increased by 11% per year and approved foreign direct investment soared by 98% each year, both starting from a very low base.

Global buyers in apparel are stepping up purchases from Myanmar’s textile industry, bringing expansion to this labor-intensive sector. Myanmar’s successful liberalization of the telecommunications sector has lowered the cost of phones, texting and internet access for people and businesses.

After decades of debilitating restraints, Myanmar’s determined business owners and operators remain intent on pushing forward to overcome bureaucratic and technological frustrations, emboldened by the spirit of social change and new economic reform.

“Reform is happening,” said one Yangon importer who launched his business in 2012. “We need to smooth the process, not lose hope.”

This businessman talks about the frustrations and obstacles he confronts almost daily, such as the lack of automation at the customs agency that delays import licensing, and complicated payment transfers that disrupt shipments. He hasn’t given up, he will keep working to change procedures because he’s confident his business will prosper.

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