Last Updated: April 2016
The November 8, 2015 elections in Myanmar marked a historic milestone in the country’s political and economic transition that began in 2011. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) swept into power, leading to the parliament’s election of Myanmar’s first civilian state leader in decades.
Myanmar launched fundamental political and economic reforms in 2011, aimed at increasing openness, empowerment and inclusion. The past years have seen a dramatic increase of political and civil liberties, along with new emerging challenges such as outbreaks of violence in minority ethnic areas.
There are now 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.
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.
Economic growth in Myanmar eased to 7 percent in 2015/16 due to floods in July 2015, which affected some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country, causing inflationary pressures and a slowdown in new investments. Medium-term growth is projected to average 8.2 percent per year.
Poverty in Myanmar is unequally concentrated in rural areas, where poor people are relying on agricultural and casual employment for their livelihoods. A large number of households also lives near the poverty line and likely to be sensitive to economy-wide shocks. Since the majority of the poor are engaged in subsistence agriculture, they may be shielded from recent inflationary pressures but the urban poor are likely to be highly affected by recent bouts of food price inflation.
Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar has the lowest life expectancy and the second-highest rate of infant and child mortality. Just one-third of the population has access to the electricity grid and road density remains low at 219.8 kilometers per 1,000 square kilometers of land area. With the liberalization of the telecommunications sector in 2013, mobile and internet penetration has increased significantly from less than 20% and 10% in 2014, to 60% and 25% respectively. Establishing a credible and consistent policy and regulatory environment in the telecommunications sector can help ensure steady private investments and growth.
Since the transition, growth has accelerated buoyed by improved macroeconomic management, increased gas production and exports, and stronger performance in non-gas sectors as the economy opened up.