Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 02/2013

Myanmar's Economic Policy Priorities

Vikram Nehru

November 2012

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Events have moved rapidly in Myanmar. In the space of less than a year, the political landscape of the country has been transformed from a system wholly dominated by the military to one moving toward democracy. Concerns about the durability of some of the changes have given way to growing optimism about the future. Political prisoners have been released. By-elections were conducted fairly and peacefully and were swept by the opposition National League for Democracy. The country’s press has been granted new freedoms, and unions are being allowed to engage in collective bargaining. Rights to peaceful assembly and expression are exercised within limits. And the country’s parliament, no longer the rubber stamp it once was, is flexing its muscles. On the economic front, too, important reforms are being introduced. Most prominent among these are the gradual reunification of the market and official exchange rates, the introduction of a daily foreign exchange auction, and the approval of a new foreign investment law. Two new agricultural laws have also been passed with important implications for land rights and land use, the government is thinking about privatizing some state enterprises, and a new draft law is being considered to give the central bank greater autonomy to design and implement monetary policy. In addition, the recently approved budget incorporates significant increases for health and education. As important, the president has appointed key economists and reform-minded ministers to help design and implement further reforms.