News / Asia

Burma Reforms Financial Controls Seeking Growth

VOA News
Burma's financial sector suffered years of mismanagement under military rule.  But more recently, the government has pushed through economic reforms that are remaking banks and revitalizing businesses. 

Nyi Nyi owns a papier mache workshop in Rangoon, where he and his family make toys.  In the past, he invested his savings in gold and stashed it in a hiding place, but he's not doing that any more.

"I just keep my money and use it when I need it," said Nyi Nyi.  "But my wife uses the bank. If I have one lakh, I give her 30 or 40,000 kyats for household things and for saving."

With clients buying his toys from as far away as Hong Kong, Nyi Nyi's business is international, but Burma's banks still are not.  To process foreign transactions, he still relies on informal money transfers through middlemen called "hondis."

Foreign visitors once relied on black market money changers and hondis are still the main method for international money transfers.  But the government hopes this informal cash-based economy is ending with new ATMs and foreign exchange licenses for private banks.  
 
Before the military government took over in 1962, Burma's economy was the best-performing in Southeast Asia.  Decades of tight state controls, widespread corruption and international sanctions have left it one of the poorest countries in the region.
 
Economist Sean Turnell says turning the economy around will require significant moves against corruption. That's why he says political change is key to economic reform.

"At present the most destructive regulation is the one that restricts access to foreign exchange and restricts access to import licenses," noted Turnell.  "Because the effect of that is not only to restrict the amount of imports that come into this country, and it really needs a lot of imports, but there's an added effect to it and that is that it keeps the exchange rate artificially high."

Burmese authorities have done away with the old official exchange rate, which pegged the Burmese currency at 6 Kyat to the dollar, while the black market rate was over 800 Kyat to the dollar.  There are also plans to loosen import restrictions and set up foreign investment laws.  
 
The hope is these changes will allow the country to recapture its past economic glory.  Than Lwin is a presidential advisor, as well as the deputy chair of the largest private bank in Burma, which plans to soon begin offering credit cards.

"Being a latecomer we have to speed up; we have to leapfrog," said Lwin.  "This is very important.  So what we have to do is to bring out all these new products in the picture, just to be in line with the ASEAN region.  2015 will be the target date for ASEAN integration.  We are very keen to see that we keep the promise."
 
With foreign investors, businesses and tourists all eyeing the newly opened country, authorities hope the new banks and regulations will clean up its decades-old image of corruption and cronyism.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More