Category Archives: Volume 06

Myanmar Government Reduces Debt – Calls for Transparency

Myanmar has over $5 billion in outstanding foreign debt to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Paris Club members, compared to nearly $11 billion when Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government came to power in 2011.

Of the $5 billion, $4 billion is owed to the Paris Club Members whereas the rest is the loan extended by the Japanese government to pay back debt to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

The Paris Club is an informal group of official creditors from 19 countries: England, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, Russia and the United States. Among the Paris Club members, Japan, Norway and Germany have written off some of the debts, which come as a huge relief for the Myanmar government.

The President’s Chief Economic Advisor, U Myint, recommends that the public should be informed of the Foreign Debts that the country owes. He also believes that the foreign loans should be utilized in programs that will benefit the general public such as health, education infrastructure and economic development.

The government therefore urgently needs to implement measures to improve governance of its institutions, ensure fiscal transparency and improve fiscal policy if it is to properly transition towards being a successful, modern nation.

Myanmar Battles for Business Opportunities

Insufficient investor protection, a complex licensing and regulatory environment and dominance of state economic enterprises (SEEs) in key sectors of the economy have been a drag on private sector development.

And with the election expected in November 2015, which could have a significant impact on whether the international community continues to embrace Myanmar, it will not be until 2016 that potential investors are certain about the long-term future of Burmese economic policy.

It is yet to be seen if local and foreign investors are willing to take the plunge early or wait for legislative changes to reap their rewards.

Yoma Strategic Holdings Acquire Stake in Myanmar’s FMCG Sector

According to a 2013 study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) titled “Myanmar’s moment: Unique opportunities, major challenges”, forecasts suggest that the consumer products and distribution sector in Myanmar is expected to grow up to US$100 billion by 2030 as a result of the increase in consumers with sufficient income for discretionary spending.

Yoma Strategic Holdings, the Singapore listed multinational with operations in Myanmar, has made a timely and tactical move into Myanmar’s fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector by entering into a definitive Business Sale Agreement (BSA) with the Asia Beverages Co. Ltd. group of companies (ABC Group).

Yoma Strategic, together with PMM Partners Limited will acquire a 30% and 20% interest respectively in ABC Group’s assets and businesses relating to the production, branding, marketing and distribution of bottled water, spirits, wines, beers, alcoholic beverages and other FMCG products in Myanmar.

Delhi Dialogue VI 2014 – Realizing the ASEAN-India Vision for Partnership and Prosperity

Vol6_028Role of Northeast India in India’s Look East Policy
U Than Tun, Member, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS)

Delhi Dialogue VI provides us an opportunity to deliberate upon India’s Look East Policy in general and India’s relations with its eastern neighbors, ASEAN and its member countries in particular. Within ASEAN, India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992 and upgraded to full dialogue partner in 1996.

In 2012 December, ASEAN-India commemorated the 20th anniversary of dialogue level partnership and the 10th anniversary of Summit-level partnership with a Commemorative  Summit in New Delhi under the theme II ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity”. The summit endorsed elevating the partnership to a “Strategic Partnership”. The leaders also adopted the “ASEAN-India Vision Statement” which charts the ASEAN-India Cooperation.

ASEAN-India Plan of Action 2010-15 envisages cooperation in a range of sectors in politic, economic, social-culture sphere for deepening and intensifying ASEAN-India cooperation. The ASEAN-India functional cooperation is also included in the cooperation across a range of various sectors.

India sees that it would be necessary to expend the existing relations between the people of Northeast India and ASEAN countries to promote its “Look East Policy” as well as its fast development with cooperation activities on people-to-people connectivity and to promote cultural and technical exchange programs.

In promoting “Look East Policy”, India feels that the greater involvement of India’s northeast is needed and necessary. The immediate neighbors, Southeast Asia is one of the arenas where Indian and Chinese have taken interest in terms of strategic, trade and economy.

India’s membership in the ARF has given it a voice in greater Asia.While interacting with ASEAN, India has paid particular attention to one of the ASEAN member countries – Myanmar. India’s relation with Myanmar is guided by its “Look East Policy” and as well as its fast development. There had been increasing realization on the part of India’s policy makers to develop physical connectivity between northeastern India and Southeast Asia, especially after Myanmar’s inclusion into ASEAN as a full member in 1997.

Myanmar stands as a hub as well as kingpin linking northeast India and ASEAN. Myanmar’s open-door policy after the political change in 2011 gave more opportunity to expend India- ASEAN strategic cooperation. For India, it is a pre-requisite to utilize the opportunities provided by its “Look East Policy”. As a result, India has initiated certain bilateral projects and also became party to some multilateral projects, aimed at enhancing connectivity between Northeast India and Southeast Asia.

In the region, there are ongoing and potential projects linking India, Myanmar and ASEAN countries. Those projects will help to promote ASEAN’s people-to-people connectivity and the cooperation activities of India’s “Look East Policy”.

There are India-Myanmar-ASEAN road maps for connectivity such as-

  • Comprehensive Asian Development Plan, CADP
  • Myanmar-India Economic Corridor (MIEC) to provide economic cooperation for India-Myanmar-Thailand.

    Myanmar’s Comprehensive Development Vision (MCDV) As Myanmar will carry out as a hub of India’s “Look East Policy” and Thailand’s “Look West Policy”, India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project will promote border trade and people-to-people connectivity on tourism in the region. The project is expected to go under Myanmar- India Strategic Partnership in order to implement ASEAN-India’s cooperation by 2016.

We see more on-going projects in the pipelinesunder the strategic partnership such as:

  • India-Myanmar railwaysto have an onward connectivity of 1360 kmstill Thailand
  • Kaladen River multimodal transit transport project will become Sittwe Deep Sea Port.
  • ASEAN Highway will be passing Moreh to Myanmar and willconnect Myanmar to Thailand and China.
  • The Asian Highway linking Kawthoung-Myeik with Myawady-Tamu- Imphal will be emerged in 2018. This AH will contribute a tripartite economic development of Myanmar-Thailand- India.
  • The Stilwell Road, it was widely known as Ledo Road during WWII that links from Ledo of Assam Province to Kachin State in Myanmar to Kuming in China.
  • That will also link with Asian highways and extend up to India-Myanmar border. It will promote Myanmar-India border trade.


The ASEAN Economic Community that will emerge in 2015 gives an opportunity to India, especially with its northeast region, to cooperate more with ASEAN. Promoting the “Look East Policy” needs to connect India to ASEAN. India-ASEAN connectivity at the same time will lead to promoting regional integration and could further enhance growing economics with East Asia.

Without the strategic location of Myanmar which is bridged between South and Southeast Asia as a hub, it will become an obstacle for India’s “Look East Policy” realizing the India- ASEAN vision for partnership and prosperity.

The ASEAN Economic Community that will emerge in 2015 gives an opportunity to India, especially with its northeast region, to cooperate more with ASEAN. Promoting the “Look East Policy” needs to connect India to ASEAN. India-ASEAN connectivity at the same time will lead to promoting regional integration and could further enhance growing economics with East Asia.

Without the strategic location of Myanmar which is bridged between South and Southeast Asia as a hub, it will become an obstacle for India’s “Look East Policy” realizing the India- ASEAN vision for partnership and prosperity.

The strategic location and the present open-door policy of Myanmar welcomes and paves the way to promote India’s “Look East Policy” to be more promising and successful through its Northeastern region.

The strategic location and the present open-door policy of Myanmar welcomes and paves the way to promote India’s “Look East Policy” to be more promising and successful through its Northeastern region.

CII 2nd Enterprise India Show


Confederation of Indian Industry in close association with the High Commission of India in Myanmar and with the support of Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India organised the 2nd “Enterprise India Show, Myanamar” in Tatmadaw Hall, Yangon from 16-18 January, 2014.

Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the ‘Enterprise India’ series of exhibitions was an endeavour to provide assistance in increasing India’s competitiveness in world markets. The series of shows held overseas have consistently presented Indian Industry’s high quality goods, services and technologies in varied industrial sectors, to the world. The event was held to enhance bilateral trade and commerce between India and Myanmar by creating awareness about the business opportunities available on both sides.

Therefore, Enterprise India Show was the perfect opportunity for those looking to expand their business in the region. The show, apart from the business and commerce also provided a platform for business interaction & portrayed the rich Indian cultural heritage, exhibited through cultural events, food festivals etc.

Event Objectives

  • To promote the “Brand India” Globally.
  • To provide a platform for Indian companies to showcase their strengths and capabilities.
  • Enhance bilateral trade and investment by creating awareness on the business opportunities available on both sides.
  • The show will also facilitate joint ventures, technology transfer, marketing arrangements as well as people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
  • Provide an opportunity to network, develop business contacts & explore new markets.
  • Effectively present the India business perspective and leverage business partnerships.
  • Project India as Preferred Investment Destination.
  • Create a positive atmosphere for scaling up ambitions and set new targets for the economic engagements.

The Exhibition was spread over an area of 2500 s.qm and included the participation of 50+ companies from varied sectors in India.

The major focus of the exhibition was on Agriculture, Automobile & Automotive Components, Construction Machinery, Education and Training, Energy Transmission, Farm Equipment Machinery, Financial Services, Irrigation, Metals &Minerals, Waste Management with leading companies like ABB, Jain Irrigation, TAFE, Crompton Greaves, Preet Tractors, Aptech, J K Tyres, Exim Bank and International Tractors etc.

Agriculture in Myanmar: A Mainstay of the Economy

Myanmar is a country in the midst of a historic transformation. History does not have a precedent of a country this size hurtling towards a market economy within a matter of mere months. As evident from the frenetic pace of economic reforms being introduced, the current administration is committed to reintegrating Myanmar into the global business community.


Myanmar’s economy has been dominated by the agriculture sector with around 40-50 percent of GDP with around 70 percent of its population living in rural areas.

The economy still relies on resource-based industries with the biggest contribution to the GDP coming from extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and forest products.

Major export items of Myanmar are mineral products such as natural gas, precious and semiprecious minerals; agricultural products including rice and rice products, pulses & bean and maize; forest products like raw rubber, teak and hard woods; and marine products.

Agriculture, which includes crop production, hunting, fishing, and forestry, is the mainstay of the Myanmar economy. This sector is responsible for much of the income and employment in the country with as much as 65 percent of the labor force is employed in this sector alone.

Myanmar produces enough food to feed its entire population. In the absence of purchasing power, however, many people go hungry. Further, about a third of the rural households do not have any land or livestock. Only half of the arable 45 million acres is under cultivation.

Burma’s agriculture is heavily dependent on the monsoon rains. While some areas suffer from too much rain, other regions receive too little. Government efforts in the 1990s increased the amount of irrigated land to 2.2 million acres. Many agricultural products like tobacco, sugar, groundnut, sunflower, maize, jute and wheat, however, have not reached their pre-1985 production levels. This reduction is offset by higher production in rice, pulses and beans. Rice production increased due to supportive government policies as well as favorable market forces.

Deforestation has been a major concern in Burma. The slash-and-burn method of agriculture is destroying the forests of the country, causing soil erosion and depletion of fertility. Periodic droughts, floods, landslides, and cyclones sometimes have devastating effect on agriculture.

The heavy reliance on monsoons is a major handicap for Burmese agriculture. The authorities have recently renovated dams and reservoirs, built new ones, pumped water from rivers and streams and taken other measures to improve irrigation. More remains to be done in this regard.

Another impediment to agricultural improvement is the inability of farmers to secure adequate loans to enhance cultivation. Private lenders charge exorbitant rates, and there are not enough banking institutions to serve people in the rural areas. As a result, farmers are not able to buy fertilizers and pesticides for their crops. Financial services need to be improved to make funds available to the cultivators.

Under the new economic system, the government distributed land among the landless, improved irrigation facilities, and increased the floor price of paddy that the government procures from the farmers. Some private activity in the export sector has been allowed since economic liberalization began in 1989. Consequently, the share of the agricultural sector in the GDPhas gone up.

As of 2007, Burma’s main countries of export were Thailand (receiving 44%), India (14.5%), China (7%), and Japan (6%).

However, by 2010, China had become a key export partner, receiving 97% of Burmeseproduced corn and 9% of beans and pulses. These figures came as a result of increasing Chinese Demand and an increasingly healthy trading relationship.

However, over the past ten years, exports have been down: in 2001-2002 Burma exported 939,000 tons of rice and 1,035,000 tons of pulses, whereas in 2010-2011 only 536,000 tons of rice and 920,000 tons of pulses were exported. This could be the result of increased demand for these products within the country, as opposed to a response to decreased production.

Vol6_InlineText06Moreover, the decrease in emphasis on exporting agricultural goods could reflect a response to the fluctuating value of the Burmese kyat as it relates to other nations’ currencies. Instead, attention was directed towards creating “non-traded services, like construction, or to the production of goods with a high price to cost ratio like gems, jade and natural gas.

In addition to extensive land and forest resources, the country has abundant water resources. Five major rivers flow through the country, providing the basis for increased irrigation and hydropower generation.10 Myanmar’s water resources are greatly underutilized: less than 20% of croplands are irrigated, and the hydropower potential has barely been tapped. Water availability, however, is highly seasonal—80% of rainfall occurs during the monsoon—and significant parts of the country experience serious drought during the dry season.

Associated with the country’s abundant water resources are substantial fisheries in the major rivers, the 1,900 km of coastline, and the 500,000 ha of mangrove swamps. There is also considerable potential for aquaculture development in the low-lying river delta areas in the south and center of the country. Between 1998 and 2009, fisheries production almost tripled, mainly due to aquaculture development. Fish and shrimp have become major export items.

Another significant component of the agriculture sector is livestock, which includes cattle, buffalo, swine, and poultry. Most rural households raise livestock, thereby contributing significantly to household protein (meat, eggs, and milk) and to farm economy through draft power and by-products (hides and leather).

Livestock represents a considerable portion of household income and capital; livestock production accounts for about 7.5% of overall GDP. Almost all livestock is raised in household backyards although there is some commercial production near major cities.

Livestock numbers have little changed for the past decade, except for the poultry population, which has tripled—possibly due to the spread of commercial production techniques in periurban areas. The shortage of livestock for draft power is one of the constraints to increased agricultural production in Myanmar.

Agricultural production grew strongly from 2000 to 2007, increasing by almost 10% in some years. In 2008 and 2009, however, vast agricultural areas were devastated by Cyclone Nargis, resulting in slightly negative growth in agricultural production. It recovered somewhat in 2010 and 2011, although flooding and currency appreciation subdued production.


Despite strong growth during most of the past decade, agriculture’s contribution to GDPdeclined from 57% in 2001 to 36% in 2010 (Figure 1). In contrast, the share of GDP accounted for by the industry sector more than doubled, to 26%, reflecting natural gas, oil, mineral , and gemstone  exploitation.

Liberalization of the economy and opening up to FDI has prompted rapid growth of the industry sector.

Aparallel increase in employment generation in the industry sector is unlikely, as the mineral and gas sectors are capital rather than labor intensive. Although employment data are limited, it appears that the agriculture sector still accounts for about 70% of total employment.

Further, it appears to be the only sector in which employment could relatively quickly be expanded nationwide. This is an important consideration, given that about 30% of the rural population is landless and has no source of income other than providing labor to the agriculture sector.

It is expected that, in view of the central role of agriculture in Myanmar’s economy and the direct link between agriculture, inclusive growth, and poverty reduction, international development assistance will give close attention to this sector.

Equally important will be assistance to other sectors vital to the agriculture sector such as rural electrification, investment in transport infrastructure, port facilities, regulation of microfinance activities.

Restructuring of the Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank (MADB) will need to be undertaken, in the context of a strengthened overall regulatory system for the finance sector. Private sector involvement in all aspects of the agriculture sector, including the supporting sectors, would have a major impact on productivity and production by providing access to agro-processing and marketing value chains, both nationally and regionally.



Myanmar’s Tourism Sector: Surpassing Expectations


The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has recently reported that Myanmar had welcomed approximately two million foreign visitors, into the country via air transport (885,476), water routes (6,086) and through overland checkpoints (1.2 million), between January and December 2013.

The aim for 2014 is three million visitors with Yangon remaining the top gateway to Myanmar, representing a 44.8 per cent year-on-year increase in tourists.

Vol6_InlineText05The government is being urged to play a greater role in Burma’s red-hot tourism industry as foreign arrivals surpass the expected total for the current fiscal year, leading Myanmar to have also developed a Policy on Community Involvement in Tourism which will ensure tourism stakeholders take active responsibility in addressing sustainable development.

In order to develop community-based tourism systematically, Myanmar would need the experience and expertise of international organisations.

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and industry leaders have also held several workshops based on the country’s Tourism Master Plan, which is targeting an increase in international tourist arrivals to nearly 7.5 million by 2020.

To do that, the master plan lays out projects aimed at improving industry institutions, developing human resources, expanding the variety of tourism destinations, and promoting the management of those sites.

Upgrading the quality of tourism services that Myanmar can offer is a top priority.

Myanmar Befriends Social Media

Vol6_021Myanmar, whose heavy censorship on media and strict regulations in the past, resulted in an astonishing low digital literacy rate.

However, after the 2010 elections with the formation of a civilian government, headed by President TheinSein, the censorship on social media platforms and other media channels has gradually loosened which also included initiatives to develop the much needed infrastructure.

Vol6_InlineText04The government plans to provide mobile access to the vast majority of the population by 2015 and with Norways’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo to start rolling out 3G networks in Myanmar soon, the digital frenzy can only get hotter.

Some organisations have quickly cottoned onto social media’s potential. Recently, Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited Myanmar’s capital city, to coincide with the launch of the search engine’s new homepage.

News is increasingly broadcast online, catering to the influx of Internet users and ensuring that the new daily newspapers will face stiff competition.

Social media sites such as Google Talk, is the most prevalent platform for communication, with Facebook being preferred as it has incorporated multiple functions such as photo sharing and chats rolled into one.

Reforms so far have sought to realize the growing message of public empowerment. Along with telecommunication progress, mobile banking solutions seem increasingly likely to follow in a country where banking has long existed behind a wall.This seems to just be the start of Myanmar’s technological enlightenment, coming when most of the globe has long been enlightened.

Esclating Demands for Hotel Construction in Myanmar

With the addition of a million foreign visitors or more on a yearly basis, the country is in desperate need for more accommodation for visitors.

The Myanmar Investment Commission granted last year, the permission, for about $US2 billion of investment into hotels and tourism-related projects.

The international community is eyeing to invest in Myanmar tourism industry according to the Ministry.Among those interested in are majority from Asian countries. Some European countries have also expressed interested in the business. Many are making contact with the Ministry for investment sector.

Myanmar businessmen also made huge investment in the hotel businesses and about five proposals for hotel construction have been made per week according to the Ministry.

3MDG Fund: Sweden Contributes US$30 million

The Three Millennium Development Goal Fund (3MDG) supports the provision of health services in Myanmar. The goals include reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Established in June 2012, 3MDG will invest an estimated US$330 million over five years and is managed by the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS).

The top three donors to the 3MDG Fund are Britain (which contributes $145.2 million), Australia ($99.2 million) and the European Union ($31.4 million).

Sweden has contributed US$30 million (about K29.5 billion) to the Three Millennium Development Goal Fund in Myanmar, making it the fourth biggest donor.