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Myanmar Overview

Last updated: February 2014

Myanmar is currently on a triple transition – from an authoritarian military system to democratic governance, from a centrally directed economy to a market-oriented economy, and from 60 years of conflict to peace in its border areas. These transitions have the potential to create opportunity and shared prosperity for the people of Myanmar and for the country to resume its place as one of the most dynamic economies in Asia.

As the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar has one of the lowest population densities in the region, with fertile lands, significant untapped agricultural potential and a rich endowment of natural resources. Its geographic location at the intersection of China and India, two of the world’s most dynamic economies, makes it well positioned to resume its traditional role as a regional trading hub and a key supplier of minerals, natural gas and agricultural produce.

Since 2010, the government has embarked on an ambitious economic, political and governance reform program. It has begun a series of reforms to remove economic distortions, such as floating the currency, new fiscal regulations to rationalize personal income tax and reduce consumption tax, liberalizing the telecommunications sector, reforms aimed at developing the private sector and stimulating direct foreign investments, a review of the financial sector, promotion of access to finance, and creating an environment conducive to job creation.

These reforms are starting to pay off. Myanmar's economy grew at 7.3 percent in 2012/13. The main drivers of growth were increased gas production, services, construction, foreign direct investment, and strong commodity exports. The economy is projected to grow at 7.5 percent in 2013/14 and rising to 7.8 percent in the medium term owing to continued increase in gas production, increased trade and stronger performance in agriculture.

Despite this recent positive economic performance, Myanmar faces a number of challenges. It is one of the poorest countries in East Asia and the Pacific, with an estimated GDP per capita of $868 in 2012/13 and a poverty headcount of 26 percent, according to a 2010 national household survey. The country’s GDP is estimated to have been $55 billion in 2012/13.

Once the top exporter of rice in the world, Myanmar’s rice exports now account for a negligible share of the world market.  Myanmar’s exports of natural resources such as gas and gems are becoming increasingly significant. 

Most social indicators are very low. For example, 32 percent of children under five suffer from malnutrition. Limited access to and the poor state of infrastructure are major impediments to providing basic health and education services and for economic development. Almost half the roads are not passable during the monsoon season.

Telecommunications and internet access is also very limited. About 73 percent of the population lacks access to electricity, and the consumption of electricity is one of the lowest in the world – 20 times less than the world average. Existing power infrastructure can only meet about half of the current demand, resulting in frequent blackouts and rationing of the electricity supply. Access to drinking water is also limited in many areas.

Last updated: February 2014

Myanmar first became a member of the International Bank for Development and Reconstruction (IBRD) in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, and the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962. Also, in December 2013, Myanmar became a full member of the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). These four institutions, along with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, make up the World Bank Group (WBG).

The WBG financed a total of 35 projects in Myanmar until 1987.  In 1998, the government went into arrears to the WBG, but remained a member, attending its Annual Meetings.

After a nearly 25 year absence, the groundwork for re-engagement in Myanmar was laid when the WBG’s Board of Executive Directors endorsed an Interim Strategy for the country in November 2012, reaffirming support for the government’s reforms to improve the lives of the people of Myanmar. This strategy, which guides the WBG’s work in the country through March 2014, focuses on accelerating poverty reduction by helping to reform institutions to deliver better services to people during this critical transition period.

Under the Strategy, the WBG is focusing is supporting the government's efforts to transform institutions to allow them to deliver for citizens. Analytical work, including an investment climate assessment, is underway to underpin these efforts. Technical assistance and policy advice on health, education, social protection and telecommunications sector is underway. The WBG is also helping put in place the institutions, tools, and information needed to enable informed decisions on sustainable river basin management while enhancing the Ayeyarwady river’s productivity with no/low regrets investments.

The WBG is contributing to informed debate and decision-making on development policy within a rapidly changing Myanmar by periodically bringing most recent economic data and analysis on development issues to government policy makers, think tanks, civil society and citizens. In 2013, the WBG released its first Myanmar Economic Monitor. The report looks at recent macroeconomic developments, recently implemented and planned policy reforms. In the public sector, diagnostic work like the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Assessment (PEFA) to provide a snapshot of the condition of Myanmar's public expenditure, procurement and financial accountability systems.

Helping build confidence in the ongoing reform process is a critical priority. The WBG is supporting the government’s reform agenda for people centered development, especially in rural areas where the majority of population reside. Towards this end, the WBG is supporting Myanmar’s National Community-Driven Development Project.  The project empowers empowering villagers to choose, plan, build, and monitor small infrastructure projects that communities need most such as bridges, roads, health clinics, and schools. It aims to reach about 3,000 villages and about 2.5 million people across Myanmar over six years.

Since re-engaging with Myanmar, in addition to the $80 million pre-arrears clearance IDA grant, the WBG has provided financial assistance to the country in the form of:



  • A $440 million interest-free IDA credit – the Myanmar Reengagement and Reform Support credit – facilitated the clearance of arrears to the World Bank, thereby paving the way for resumption of a full partnership to pursue Myanmar’s development priorities. The final amount disbursed was $419.6 million. In addition to helping Myanmar clear its debts to creditors, this credit is supporting critical reforms needed. 
  • A $140 million interest-free credit from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Myanmar Electric Power Project (MEPP) was approved by the WBG’s Board of Directors on September 2013 to support the installation of a modern, high-efficiency 106 MW electricity power plant in Mon State. With this new technology, this plant will be able to produce 250 percent more electricity with the same amount of gas and reduced emissions.

  • A $ 31.5 million interest-free credit which will go towards increasing the access to mobile phones at the lowest possible cost. It will also include technical assistance for the review of key telecommunication laws and develop legal and regulatory tools that are in line with international best practices.

  • IFC’s $2 million investment to set up ACLEDA MFI Myanmar Co. is helping to address the significant demand for financing from small enterprises and people. Operating from early 2013, the new microfinance institution is expected to provide loans to more than 200,000 people – mostly micro and small businesses run by women – by 2020.

In addition, the WBG is preparing  a scaled up partnership program with Myanmar that is expected to include support for energy, health, agriculture, and other key development priorities. The partnership in energy will focus on support for the development of the National Electrification Plan, regulatory reforms, private sector investments in power generation and distribution, and renewable energy for rural and off grid electrification. Support in the health sector will support Myanmar's efforts to achieve universal health coverage, along with interventions in maternal, newborn, and child health, as well as TB, HIV/AIDS, and malaria.

Last updated: February 2014

From 1987 to 2011, the WBG only supported activities that were implemented through third parties, and has provided technical support to the work of other development partners. Results until 2011 include the following:

The Avian Influenza Support project, which closed in 2011, helped strengthen Myanmar’s capacity to prevent, prepare for, and respond to highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks in animal production and to reduce the risks of the infection spreading to humans. Since 2010, the WBG has been providing technical support to the Multi-Donor Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) for qualitative monitoring of livelihood interventions.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in May 2008, the WBG provided technical assistance for a post-disaster needs assessment. This assistance resulted in the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment-PONJA of July 2008, and successive Post-Nargis Social Impact Monitoring reports for November 2008, May 2009 and April 2010.

Results from recently started, ongoing, and new activities will be realized in the future.


Myanmar: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments

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