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Myanmar’s development story is complex, with significant reversals in recent years due to multiple and overlapping crises. In 2011, a political and economic transition process began under a transitional military government, with the first democratic elections held in 2015.  From 2011 to 2019, Myanmar experienced high economic growth, averaging 6 percent per year, coupled with significant reduction in poverty.  This was bolstered by economic reforms, lifting of sanctions, and optimism for greater stability. At the same time, the underlying political economy remained fragile. In 2017 there was massive violence in Rakhine State leading to one of the largest waves of refugees fleeing their homes. In February 2021 the military assumed power, setting back the country’s democratic transition and resulting in a sharp increase in conflict. Like other countries in the region, Myanmar has also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which has contributed to rising food and energy prices. These recent crises have eroded many of the development gains achieved over the past decade. In addition, natural disasters – such as Cyclone Mocha, a Category 5 cyclone that struck in May 2023 – continue to be a major threat.

The economy has shrunk since the COVID-19 pandemic and the military coup, and economic activity has remained weak and constrained. The economy in 2023 is estimated to be 30 percent smaller than it might have been in the absence of COVID-19 and the coup. Real GDP per capita is estimated to be around 13 percent below 2019 levels. Economic recovery has been slow and uneven, with Myanmar’s economy estimated to have grown by 3 percent in 2023 (years ended September). Business operations continue to be disrupted by high input prices, electricity outages, conflict and logistics constraints, trade and foreign exchange restrictions, and frequent changes in rules and regulations. Labor market conditions remain precarious and inequalities in household welfare have worsened. In the Myanmar Subnational Phone Survey (MSPS) conducted at the end of 2022 and early 2023, about half of surveyed households reported a decrease in incomes over the past year, while only 15 percent reported an increase.

Myanmar faces the risk of a lost generation with erosions in human capital development.  Public spending on health and education has fallen from 3.6 percent to about 1.8 percent of GDP between fiscal years 2020 and 2023.  There have been severe disruptions in education and public healthcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with service delivery further constrained in the aftermath of the coup.  Food security and nutrition appear to be worsening with high food prices and ongoing weakness in the labor market putting household incomes under substantial pressure, particularly in states and regions more affected by the ongoing conflict. The latest World Bank survey (May 2023) found that 48 percent of farming households worry about not having enough food, up from about 26 percent in May 2022. The survey also shows a notable drop in the consumption of nutritious foods such as milk, meat, fish, and eggs.

In the medium term, Myanmar’s potential for inclusive growth has been sharply curtailed.  Reversals of previous economic reforms have unwound much of the increased openness and liberalization that had been a key driver of Myanmar’s strong growth in the decade prior to the coup. Disruptions to education and health services are likely to have long-lasting implications for productivity and household incomes. The increased out-migration of skilled workers and sharp slowdown in foreign direct investment will likely further constrain the prospects for longer term development.


Last Updated: Dec 04, 2023


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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments
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Level 21, Sule Square, 221, Sule Pagoda Road, Kyauktada Township, Yangon 11182, Myanmar
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