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'Goldmine' Myanmar set for rising growth: ADB

12 april 2012, 10:04
ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda. ©REUTERS/Nguyen Huy Kham
ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda. ©REUTERS/Nguyen Huy Kham
Abundant natural resources, a strategic position in Asia and soaring tourist arrivals make Myanmar a "goldmine" poised for accelerating economic growth, AFP reports citing the Asian Development Bank.

But the impoverished nation faces a long list of reforms that need to be carried out in order to develop proper banking, transportation and electricity systems, the Manila-based organisation said.

It expects Myanmar's economic growth to accelerate to 6.0 percent this year and 6.3 percent next year, from 5.5 percent in 2011 and an average of 4.9 percent over the previous four years.

But Craig Steffensen, who oversees the ADB's activities related to Myanmar, said the actual performance could exceed those forecasts "quite substantially" if the country successfully opens up to the outside world.

"Myanmar is a goldmine," he told AFP in an interview.

The country's supplies of jade, gemstones, oil and gas, as well as its strategic position between the rest of Southeast Asia and fast-growing India and China, meant it had the potential for rapid growth, he said.

"Myanmar's neighbours have been waiting for this day for at least 20 years, where they can begin talking about road and rail and air and sea port connections in a way that will benefit Myanmar as much as anybody else."

A further easing of Western sanctions, if it happens, would support growth, he said.

At the same time the country, which was ruled by the military for almost half a century until a quasi-civilian government took power last year, still lacks an adequate banking sector, irrigation system and infrastructure.

"Only a quarter of the population has access to electricity and in the places that do have access there are lots of power outages and brownouts," said Steffensen.

"They need access to adequate, reliable power if the private sector's going to get going."

In its boldest economic reform yet, the new government earlier this month began a managed flotation of its currency, the kyat, overhauling a complex exchange rate system to facilitate trade and investment.

Steffensen hailed the move as a "major reform" that appeared to have been implemented smoothly.

"If they can do this, I think there's hope that they'll be able to pull off some of the other things that need to be done well too," he added.

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