With Prudent Policies, World Bank Forecasts Rapid Growth in Burma

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 24 February 2016

RANGOON — In a new report, the World Bank said Burma’s economy has the potential to grow rapidly, by up to some 8 percent per year in real terms over the next five years, if the new government is able to put the right policies in place.

The report, released on Tuesday and called “All Aboard: Policies for Shared Prosperity in Myanmar,” teases out development opportunities and reform options for Burma in the years ahead under a new government.

Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank’s country director for Southeast Asia, said, “Myanmar is at a historic milestone in its political and economic transition. The great opportunity for Myanmar is to turn continued strong economic growth into better lives for all the people of Myanmar.”

Zachau identified three policy directions that would be key to spurring such growth: “The further opening and diversification of the economy, with a level playing field for the private sector and structural shifts to more productive and labor intensive activities; nationwide programs to achieve, over time, universal access to basic education, health, and energy services of reliable quality; and transparency and accountability in the public sector.”

Some among the local business community in Burma have expressed optimism that a new government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) can spur growth in the country and entice more foreign investment.

“Myanmar has the potential to follow a similar path of inclusive growth as other Asian countries that enjoyed long periods of rapid income growth,” said Abdoulaye Seck, the World Bank’s country manager for Burma.

“The country faces a long road ahead in addressing continued challenges to close disparities across Myanmar’s geography, ethnic communities and income groups. The World Bank Group looks forward to continuing to support the people of Myanmar in overcoming these challenges.”

But despite many observers’ widespread optimism, Chit Khine, chairman of the Eden Group of Companies, is approaching the situation with caution, saying that though he agrees with the World Bank’s prediction for growth in Burma, he is concerned about how the new government will handle the damage left behind by President Thein Sein’s administration.

“[I worry about the] weak financial management of the previous government, and I’m concerned weather change might harm the country’s agriculture sector,” Chit Khine said.

“The country’s economy can grow as fast as the World Bank said, but the new government will need to better manage everything.”