Burma Launches Export Strategy to Connect Smaller Firms to Global Economy

By Jared Ferrie 26 March 2015

RANGOON — Burma on Tuesday launched an export strategy aimed at strengthening smaller companies, which is a departure from 49 years of military rule when a few large firms dominated the economy, said the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Burma’s economy was eviscerated by poor management and corruption under the former military government, and Western countries imposed strict sanctions in response to human rights abuses.

A semi-civilian government has implemented sweeping political and economic reforms since taking power in 2011. In recognition, the European Union, Australia, the United States and other countries have lifted or eased sanctions.

That has opened the door to the global economy, and the ITC, which is affiliated with the United Nations and World Trade Organization, worked with the government and the German aid agency, GIZ, to develop the country’s first ever national export strategy.

“We really want to ensure that now also these small and medium sized enterprises are included in the process,” said Irina Scheffmann of GIZ. “It’s not only big companies that have a share of the cake.”

The former military government tightly controlled the economy, a situation that benefited a handful of firms owned by so-called cronies, many of whom remain on the United States’ list of sanctioned individuals.

Burma still suffers from the effects of economic isolation, said the ITC, GIZ and the Commerce Ministry.

“Exports have become concentrated on a handful of products, mostly unprocessed natural resources, and export destinations remain limited,” they said in a statement.

The strategy was drawn up after consultation with private companies and the government and will focus on a few key sectors including forestry products and garments, they said.