Details on Suu Kyi-nomics Forthcoming

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 14 June 2016

RANGOON — The National League for Democracy (NLD) government pledged to support the private sector to drive Burma’s economy growth and lower the barriers for going into business, said Union Minister for Planning and Finance Kyaw Win on Monday in Rangoon.

The NLD’s economic policies will be made public this month, said the minister at a meeting with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

“The economic policy has yet to be approved [by the cabinet]. But it will be announced soon—before the end of the month. The new economic policy will allow all citizens to start their own businesses,” he said.

Despite their landslide victory in the elections last November, the NLD’s economic policy remains shrouded in mystery.

“The minister said the economic policies would be announced soon and they would support the private sector, but he didn’t give any details about how they would do that,” Maung Maung Lay, vice chairman of the UMFCCI, told The Irrawaddy.

“There were different topics raised by various businessmen, but most of them were related to their own self-interest, so I suggested the minister make policies that are good for everyone, not just certain individuals,” Maung Maung Lay said.

“In the past, previous governments listened to us but in the end no practical support came,” he explained. “That’s why we hope this government also takes action. For example, the government needs to bolster small- and medium-sized enterprises if they really want to promote the manufacturing industry and exports.”

It is clear the uncertainty around the NLD’s economic policy is causing headaches for many in the business community.

Kyaw Thu, secretary of the Myanmar Fruits and Vegetables Producers Association, said: “We were not told what the [economic] policies will encompass. We only know that the policies are being drafted. We need clear economic policies because what we have now is instability.”

“There must be a robust economic policy and development strategy. Our country is still heavily engaged in the agriculture industry, which does not create a large amount of job opportunities Greater attention should be paid to this,” said Dr. Maung Aung, senior economist at the Ministry of Commerce. “The GDP must be increased, but it must be growth that also benefits the lowest income earners.”

Min Ko Oo, secretary of Myanmar Beans and Pulses Traders Association, said the government should look for long-term strategies to drive economic growth, in contrast with previous governments that focused on short-term policies.

“In the past, we never knew what was allowed to be exported because the government always changed the export lists,” he said. “The NLD should look out for long-term interests of the country and should cut unnecessary imports and try to concentrate on exports because we have a trade deficit.”

Burma’s trade volume increased annually after transitioning to a quasi-civilian government in 2011. It leveled off in 2016, worrying some observers. The country imported nearly US$16 billion in goods during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Meanwhile, exports totalled more than $11 billion, leaving an estimated deficit of nearly $5 billion.

Additional reporting by May Soe San