ADB: While growing, Myanmar should embrace opportunity

Country could capitalize on government reforms by drawing more investors to energy sector.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 30, 2016 at 8:51 AM
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YANGON, Myanmar, March 30 (UPI) -- Myanmar's new government will need to increase efforts to draw in investments toward the energy sector to foster development, the Asian Development Bank said.

The bank said in a country profile that economic growth for Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is expected to grow by 8.4 percent this year, after easing to 7.2 percent after widespread natural disasters left parts of the country flooded.

Winfried Wicklein, country director for Myanmar at the ADB, said economic reforms enacted when the ruling military started embracing democratic initiatives have paid off, though further measures are needed for the sake of national stability.

"Moreover, intensified efforts are needed to connect and develop rural areas to improve access to markets and services, and to generate opportunities and jobs," she said.

An inflation rate of 9.5 percent, however, is expected to create headwinds for Myanmar's growth. Foreign investments, meanwhile, are necessary to advance much-needed developments in the expanding energy sector, the bank said.

Sanctions pressures on Myanmar eased after 2010 elections, giving foreign investors more opportunities in the once-isolated country. Australian energy company Woodside Petroleum in February announced it discovered natural gas deposits offshore Myanmar, the second it's made since January.

Htin Kyaw, a close confidant of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was sworn in as the first civilian president of the country since 1962. In his inaugural address, he said the much-needed reforms would address many of Myanmar's long-term desires.

"I believe that I will have to be patient in implementing this political aim, which the people have wished to see for years," he said.

Suu Kyi's portfolio in the new administration includes foreign affairs, utilities and energy.

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