No Easy Way to Improve Myanmar’s Economy, Experts Say
By Htet Naing Zaw & Htun Htun 14 August 2017
NAYPYITAW — The National League for Democracy (NLD)’s economic advisor U Myo Myint blamed a legacy of inept bureaucracy, deep-rooted corruption, military control, and a lack of cooperation among ministries for his party’s poor economic performance.
“The lack of cooperation is a big challenge. As there is no cooperation between the government departments, [the NLD] has not been able to adopt comprehensive plans,” said the economic advisor while discussing the challenges of a shift from a centralized economy to a market economy during the three-day Myanmar Democratic Transition Forum in Naypyitaw on Saturday.
He described the military-drafted 2008 Constitution as the first obstacle in revamping the country’s economy.
U Myo Myint listed the reasons behind Myanmar’s stagnant economy: “Armed clashes, drug abuse and trade, declining export values, low productivity in the workforce and low utilization of farmland.”
“The first challenge [to improve] the stagnant economy is the constitution and its limitations—the Tatmadaw takes 25 percent of seats in the parliament and three ministries are under the control of the military,” he added.
Myanmar Army representative to the forum Col Aung Myint Oo said the role of the military could be reduced when there was stability and good economic performance in the country.
He said the country’s economy was an urgent issue for the NLD-led government.
“People’s anger builds up with economic hardship, the explosion of anger is followed by revolution. So, [the government] needs to urgently provide secure livelihoods for people,” said Col Aung Myint Oo.
“Only after that, the government should work to adopt a strategy in cooperation with experts, military and other members of society,” he added.
Another NLD economic advisor U Lay Nyunt admitted the government had not fulfilled the expectations of farmers.
“There is a need for immediate reforms in the agricultural sector. I hate to ask farmers to wait until the agricultural development strategy is adopted. We should not ask them to wait anymore in poverty.”
He suggested amending the 2012 Farmland Law, as well as policies regarding provision of agricultural loans and investment, and taxation.
“I think it is time we made bold changes no matter what the obstacles are,” he said.
He also pointed out the country’s failure to produce animal feed at home.
“We have 26 animal feed processing plants in our country, but only six of them are operating and are not even running at full capacity. This is a big loss for our country,” he criticized.
Most of the experts attending the discussion agreed that the economy remains largely centralized and in need of policies that have a grass-roots impact.
Economist U Thein Swe who served as an executive director in the World Bank said: “We should have a timeframe and plans in place now, we should have plans and goals for the next three years, the next five years.”