What Might Htin Kyaw’s Presidency Mean for Burma’s Economy?

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 15 March 2016

RANGOON — Since Htin Kyaw’s confirmation as Burma’s next president Tuesday morning, observers have been speculating about what this might mean for the national economy.

Soe Tun, chairman of the Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association and vice president of the Myanmar Rice Federation, expressed judicious optimism.

“I believe U Htin Kyaw can drive up Burma’s economy, given his education in economics and that he has to listen to what the people want,” Soe Tun told The Irrawaddy.

“I don’t think the new government can solve the difficulties of economic growth during this honeymoon period—within the first 100 days—but I believe that the NLD [National League for Democracy] can be clear about what its economic policies will be.”

He also mentioned that he is unconcerned about Vice President Myint Swe, a former lieutenant-general and outgoing Rangoon chief minister, manipulating the business environment since NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi will be the one ultimately calling the shots.

Myat Thin Aung, chairman of the Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone and a central executive member of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, voiced similar thoughts on the military-backed Myint Swe.

“According to procedures set by the outgoing government, vice president No.1 normally makes decisions about national projects, while vice president No. 2 focuses on the education, health and social sectors. So if the new government follows this procedure, Myint Swe will make decisions regarding national projects,” Myat Thin Aung said.

“As far as I know, U Myint Swe is flexible in making business decisions, he’s not rigid… [Either way] the president and other vice president will be working together with him.”

Htin Kyaw earned 360 out of a total of 652 votes in the Tuesday morning legislative session, while Myint Swe won 213 votes and ethnic Chin lawmaker Henry Van Thio won 79 votes, making them vice president Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Though there is much political wrangling ahead, there also seems to be a powerful current of hope running through Burma’s burgeoning business community.

“I believe that he [Htin Kyaw] can boost the country’s economy, that he can spur businesses to develop in his term [as president],” said Sabei Aung, managing director of Nature Dream Travels and Tours. “He’s honest, wise and has experience with international dealings, so no doubt he can lead the country. And, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be supporting him.”