Myanmar economy is a fascinating topic. Myanmar (also known as Burma) is a country in Southeast Asia which is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination (you should check out Bagan if you haven’t already). Myanmar is a very interesting country given its recent turbulent history and politics – it has been locked away from the world, almost like North Korea, for decades until 2011! Economically, it is one of the poorest nations in Asia (and in the world). However, recent increase in foreign direct investment and hopeful transition towards democracy both bring a lot of hope for a faster economic development and improved living conditions for Myanmar’s 53 mln people.
Here are 10 facts about Mynamar that will help you understand the country and its reality a little bit better.
FACT #1: Myanmar is bordering with two most populous countries in the world: India (to the East) and China (to the north). They are also in the top 3 biggest export destinations, together with Thailand.
FACT #2: Out of all countries in mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar has the 2nd lowest GDP/capita. The value of $1,204 puts it just above Cambodia (2014). See Poland for comparison.
FACT #3: There is no prime minister position in Myanmar. Myanmar has been slowly transitioning out of military dictatorship towards democracy. The Prime Minister position was abolished in 2011 and, according to the Constitution, it was the President that became the head of state and the head of government since then. However, in November 2015, The National League for Democracy won parliamentary elections. Its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, became the State Counsellor in 2016, as she was barred from officially becoming the country’s president. Despite Ms Suu Kyi’s rise to power, the Burmese military hasn’t turned away from political life and still enforces the undemocratic constitution.
FACT #4: Burma is a multi-ethnic state. There are 7 minority groups living in Burma, in addition to ethnic Burmese (Burmans). The minorities themselves are made of up to 136 ethnicities. The 8 ethnic groups are: Burman 65%, Shan 10%, Karen 9%, Arakan 5%, Mon 2,5%, Chin 2%, Kachin 1,5%, Karenni 0,8%. More information here.
FACT #5: The main exported good is natural gas (38% of total exports by value). Other exported goods include: dried legumes (9% of total export value), rough wood (8% of value) and precious stones (6% of value). Source: The Observatory of Economic Complexity.
FACT #6: First ATM transaction in the country was made in 2012. The first CB Bank ATM installed in Myanmar became the first to also accept an international payments card (MasterCard and Maestro/Cirrus-branded cards).
FACT #7: In Myanmar, 25.6% of the population lives below the national poverty line.
Source: Asian Development Bank, 2014.
FACT #8: In September 2016, the U.S. lifted remaining sanctions against Myanmar. A thing to note is that U.S. companies have committed a total of approximately $612 million in foreign investment in Myanmar (2014). Those include: Cisco, P&G, Coca-Cola, GE, Mastercard and others. For a list, see here.
FACT #9: The local currency is kyat. $1 is around MMK 1224 (as of September, 2016).
FACT #10: Myanmar used to be a British colony between 1824 and 1948 (after Anglo – Burmese wars). Did you know George Orwell used to live in Burma and work there as a police officer in the Indian Imperial Police force? There is a book inspired by his experiences called “Burmese Days”.