Last updated: October 2017
Myanmar is currently in a democratic transition – the government, led by de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has launched new economic policies, finalized new health and education sector strategies, stated new priorities such as nutrition and rural development. There are opportunities to further deepen reforms, create shared prosperity for all, and for the country to resume its place as one of the most dynamic economies in Asia. There are also challenges to achieve sustainable and inclusive peace agreement with its multiple ethnic armed organizations as well as to address the heightened tensions in Rakhine State.
Myanmar is one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia. In 2016/17, the GDP growth eased to 5.9% due to the impact of severe flooding in 2015, in which the pace of recovery in agriculture was hampered by longstanding productivity constraints in the sector. Medium-term growth is currently projected to average 7.1% per year, mainly driven by economic reforms, public consumption and private investment.
The World Bank conducted a poverty analysis jointly with the Government of Myanmar. Based on the method produced in the Integrated Household Living Conditions Assessment (IHLCA) reports by the government and development partners, poverty declined from 32.1% in 2004/05 to 25.6% in 2009/10 and 19.4% in 2015. A decline of a similar magnitude was registered using the World Bank’s revised estimate: poverty went down from 44.5% in 2004 to 37.5% in 2009/10 and 26.1% in 2015. The analysis shows, however, that poverty remains substantial, especially in rural areas where people rely on agricultural and casual employment for their livelihood. Those who live near the poverty line are susceptible to economic shocks.
Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar has the lowest life expectancy and the second-highest rate of infant and child mortality. Out of every 100 children, 6.2 die before their first birthday and 7.2 before their fifth (Population and Housing Census, 2014). In terms of nutrition data, 29% of children under 5 are moderately stunted and 8% are severely stunted (DHS, 2015). The dropout rate is high, especially in rural areas where 6 out of 10 children who start grade one drop out before the end of middle school; among the poorest families, this figure is 7 in 10.
Access to basic infrastructure and services remain a challenge in both rural and urban areas. Only one-third of the population has access to the national electricity grid while road density remains low at 219.8 kilometers per 1,000 square kilometers of land area. However, with the recent liberalization of the telecommunications sector, mobile and internet penetration has increased significantly from less than 20% and 10% in 2014, to 60% and 25% respectively.
Myanmar is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries exposed to multiple hazards, including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, and droughts, ranking 2nd out of 187 countries in the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index and 9th out of 191 countries in the INFORM Index for Risk Management.