Despite its rich natural and human resources, Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. After a long absence, the World Bank Group has begun re-engaging with the country, supporting reforms that will benefit all of its people, including the poor and vulnerable.
Until now, difficulty in accessing finance, underdeveloped infrastructure – particularly telecommunications and power – and the lack of a business environment conducive to private investment have all held back the potential of this country of 62 million people, more than two-thirds of them living in rural areas.
Recently, however, the government began a far-reaching program to strengthen the role of the private sector in the economy.
Working alongside the World Bank, IFC is supporting this effort with diagnostics and advisory services to help improve the regulatory framework and the broader investment climate.
Ongoing consultation between the government and the private sector on the reform program will be necessary. Bringing significant regional and global experience in developing publicprivate dialogues, we are working with the government and Chamber of Commerce to support the establishment of a business forum.
Members of Myanmar’s Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry visited Vietnam in December 2012 to learn about the operations of the Vietnam Business Forum, a public-private dialogue initiated by the World Bank Group 15 years ago.
“We do think creating a formal dialogue platform between the government and business community – with support from development institutions – will enable greater and more open discussion on legal and regulatory issues that would help improve the business environment,” said Zaw Naing Thein, executive committee member of Myanmar’s Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
At the same time, IFC is conducting assessments that will form the basis for future investment and advisory programs in Myanmar. A financial sector mapping exercise has been completed to study ways to improve access to finance. We are also working with the World Bank to assess the country’s investment climate and infrastructure needs, with an initial focus on telecommunications and power.
The first investment IFC has planned is a $2 million loan to Cambodia’s ACLEDA Bank to help it set up a microfinance institution in Myanmar. ACLEDA MFI Myanmar aims to provide loans to more than 230,000 people, mostly women, by 2020 to revitalize the country’s private sector and spur job creation.
The World Bank, which had not approved any lending to Myanmar between 1987 and 2011, has also stepped up its financing, beginning with an initial $80 million in grants to benefit Myanmar’s local communities.