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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, a military coup set back the country’s democratic transition and development and resulting in a sharp increase in internal conflict and displacement. According to the UN, approximately one-third of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, including six million children. Like other countries in the region, Myanmar has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine and has been facing rising food and energy prices. These recent crises have eroded many of the development gains achieved over the past decade. In addition, Cyclone Mocha, a Category 5 storm struck in May 2023, with approximately 1.2 million people affected. 

The economy shrunk during the COVID-19 pandemic and the period immediately following the military coup, and economic activity has remained weak and constrained. Myanmar’s economy is expected to have grown by just 1 percent over the year to March 2024, with businesses continuing to face a very difficult operating environment. Conflict has escalated across much of Myanmar since October 2023, driving significant internal displacement, disrupting key overland trade routes and increasing logistics costs. Even if conflict does not escalate further, growth is expected to remain subdued over the rest of 2024 and into 2025 given broad-based constraints across productive sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, and trade. The size of Myanmar’s economy remains around 10 percent lower than it was in 2019, indicative of the persistent impacts of recent shocks to both the supply and the demand side of the economy.  

Myanmar faces the risk of a lost generation with erosions in human capital development.  Public spending on health and education is estimated have declined from 3.8 percent to about 2 percent of GDP between fiscal years 2020 and 2023.  These figures are the lowest when compared to regional neighbors such as Cambodia, which spent 5.1 percent of GDP, Laos, which spent 3.1 percent of GDP, and the East Asia & Pacific (EAP) average health and education spending of 8.2 percent of GDP in 2020. 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 military 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.  

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: Apr 03, 2024


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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments
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Yangon Office
Level 21, Sule Square, 221, Sule Pagoda Road, Kyauktada Township, Yangon 11182, Myanmar
+95 1 925 5030
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1818 H Street NW, Washington DC 20433
+1 202-473-4709