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Myanmar Government Launches Thin Economic Policy

  • Reuters

A boy chops fish at a seafood export factory in Hlaingthaya Industrial Zone, outside Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 19, 2016.

A boy chops fish at a seafood export factory in Hlaingthaya Industrial Zone, outside Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 19, 2016.

Myanmar's government released a long-awaited economic policy on Friday, but the document was noticeably light on specifics and will likely do little to ease the concern of businesses that have grown frustrated with the lack of a detailed plan.

At just three pages, the policy, launched by the Ministry of Planning and Finance in the capital, Naypyitaw, comes some eight months after Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding victory in a November election.

The paper broadly outlined 12 policies ranging from prioritizing labor-intensive enterprises to the privatization of some state-owned ones, but it lacked detail or plans for how to accomplish the goals.

"To create human resources which will be conducive to economic development and to develop technologies and vocational education," the government said in one of the points. Maung Maung Win, deputy minister of finance and planning, told Reuters the policy document was an "overview", and that more detailed plans on specific areas of the economy would be released in future. But he said he did not know when.

"I cannot say the specific date," he said. "It will come, it will come."

As well as NLD members and ministry officials, diplomats and representatives of international aid groups attended the launch.

Han Tha Myint, a senior NLD member, said that those in attendance were hoping for more insight as to how the government planned to promote business and boost the economy in the impoverished country of 51 million.

"They are asking for details, it is very vague," he said. "There are no specifics, objectives or those things."

Members of the media were barred from attending. Dr Sid Naing, country director for the Marie Stopes international healthcare group, who also attended, said many people were disappointed about the lack of specifics.

The private sector has increasingly questioned the NLD's commitment to business as Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's leader, has focused her efforts on the country's complex peace process.

Since April, the government has approved just 19 foreign and domestic investment projects after a two-month delay in reforming an investment commission that lead to a backlog of more than 100 projects.

On Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi met members of two ethnic minority armed groups, including members of the United Wa State Army, believed to be the largest and most powerful such group in the country.

The Wa, who control large swathes of land on the Myanmar-China border, have largely sat out the peace process started by former President Thein Sein.

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