December 13, 2017

Rakhine Crisis and Myanmar Economy

By Khin Maung Nyo (Economics)

I haven’t voiced my opinion on Rakhine crisis as the State authorities and experts have been discussing it quite extensively; however, now that the topic falls within my area of expertise, I’m going to express my views.
These days, news agencies, especially foreign news outlets, ask this major question:
“Can Rakhine crisis affect Myanmar economy?”
I myself have never thought it could. That’s why I asked them how the two were related. Then, I realized why.
In fact, this article should have been written in English in the first place. But the fact that I am not well-versed in diplomatic terms may give rise to misinterpretations; thus, I’ve put it down in Myanmar.
During the television interviews, I’ve tried to express my thoughts in English as much as I could as those interviews are meant for international audience.
Here is what I’ve gathered. “International communities are concerned about Rakhine crisis. Therefore, foreign investments could be delayed as there is no political stability in Myanmar. This in turn would slow down Myanmar economic development”, they said! Well, well, well!
It would be entirely wrong for the investors to base their business decisions on false news.
Foreign investments are obviously needed for the development of Myanmar. To that end, Myanmar is trying to cooperate with international communities. The international communities should welcome and acknowledge it, shouldn’t they? Why do they choose to believe fake, fabricated news and turn a blind eye to the benefits of millions of people?
Till now, Myanmar has not received tangible investments from the West. Majority of investments come from her neighboring Asian countries. Myanmar is still in the process of penning bilateral trade agreements with some European countries, and American sanctions against her have not been lifted altogether. Therefore, it is hard to say that the investments, which have not even arrived here, could be slowed down. The list of some top foreign investors in Myanmar has remained the same for years, without any significant change. Myanmar has issued a new Foreign Investment Act which guarantees that foreign investors will be treated and protected equally as local investors.
Most of the trading has been with neighboring countries. Myanmar is still far from enjoying GSP opportunities – a current buzzword.
There has been a great deal of political progress in Myanmar, the most obvious one is the civilian government in office. International communities should welcome such progress made within a year and a half, rather than comparing it with the sort of progress that can be achieved after more than a hundred years. A look into the history of Myanmar will reveal that it has never given into the pressure of any superpower. It has also withstood years of economic sanctions.
While devising economic strategies and investment plans for the development of Rakhine region, there may be those who are uninterested as well as those who want to invest. Of course, people have different views on risks and opportunities. We, on our part, need to welcome investments which correspond with our economic policies for the benefits of our country.
Although it may not directly impact tourism industry as the current crisis is in the region that is not frequented by foreign tourists, there may be those who have cancelled their trips out of panic, based on false rumors.
This crisis will not affect current investment either, because such investments are situated off-shore and in the south of Rakhine. It should be noted that this crisis did not begin overnight; it began in 2012. Nevertheless, investment in the region did not drop – it has increased gradually.
We notice that some ASEAN member countries, neighboring countries and even some far-flung countries can understand the situation and sympathize with us.
The silver lining is this Rakhine crisis is that the Government, the Parliament and the public have become united more than before.
“Blood is thicker than water” and this fact is a notion that no one can put a price tag on!

Translated by Soe Than

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