Country Session 14: Myanmar

Myanmar’s country session at Growth Week provided an overview of the country’s recent reforms and economic challenges, with directions for potential future IGC research highlighted. The session brought together researchers from the Myanmar Development Resource Institute’s Centre for Economic and Social Development (MDRI-CESD) and members of the IGC network.

Robin Burgess (LSE, Director, IGC) chaired the discussion, emphasizing Myanmar’s status as the newest country for IGC’s work and the site of potentially fast-paced economic development. The first half of the session then began with a presentation on “Challenges for Myanmar’s Public Administration Reform” from Tin Maung Than, (Director, MDRI-CESD). Tin Maung Than outlined events from the country’s constitutional reform in 2008 through today, and then described the current policy-making process and the government bodies tasked with overseeing different aspects of reform. As a number of significant policy changes are on the table, which could create a need for rigorous assessment—and an opportunity to track the effect of the new reforms. Robert Conrad (Duke University) then discussed “Public Finance and Natural Resource Management, Gaps and Challenges Facing Myanmar.” Conrad analysed the problem of Myanmar’s low rate of revenue collection and advocated clarifying current rules, simplifying the tax system, and creating better incentives to pay tax and manage natural resources transparently.

Paul Minoletti (Research Coordinator, MDRI-CESD) covered “Opportunities for IGC Engagement in the Context of President Thein Sein’s Reform Agenda.” A recent speech by the President laid out an agenda including five main areas where IGC collaboration could be fruitful: Electricity, Agriculture, SMEs, Trade, and Financial Sector Reform. Finally, Andrea Smurra, IGC Country Economist in Myanmar, led a discussion of Myanmar’s Country Strategy Note. The session was well attended, and members of the IGC research network expressed strong interest in areas including the garment sector, microfinance, trade, and decentralization reforms.