MAJOR MACRO ECONOMIC INDICATORS
|2017||2018||2019 (e)||2020 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||6.8||6.8||6.6||6.8|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||4.6||6.9||8.6||7.5|
|Budget balance * (% GDP)||-3.0||-4.1||-3.7||-3.9|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-6.4||-5.2||-4.5||-5.1|
|Public debt (% GDP)||35.2||38.2||38.7||38.7|
(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast. *Fiscal year 2020 from October 2019 to September 2020.
- Progress in democratic transition and economic openness
- Abundant raw materials (minerals (including jade, copper and gold), gas and oil), hydroelectric opportunities
- Close to fast-growing economies (India, China, Thailand)
- Significant tourism potential
- High potential of the primary sector (agriculture)
- Youthful population (27% of the population under 14 years of age)
- Availability of low-cost labour
- ASEAN member
- Highly endemic corruption and a failing business environment (165/190 in the Doing Business 2020 ranking)
- Extreme ethnic crisis linked to the Buddhist majority’s intolerance towards the Muslim Rohingya minority (135 ethnic groups are present in the country; the majority Bamar ethnic group represents 68% of the population)
- International condemnation of discrimination against minorities
- Inefficient central bank
- Lack of diversification and infrastructure (electricity, refining, education)
- Underdeveloped financial sector
- Country highly exposed to natural disasters (earthquakes, cyclones, floods, etc.)
Very rapid growth
Economic growth will remain among the highest in the region in 2020. The service sector will contribute most strongly, with wholesale and retail trade benefiting from government reforms. Industry, driven by manufacturing and construction, will also contribute positively. While the textile industry is historically important in the Burmese economy, new higher value-added manufacturing activities will continue to develop, such as the assembly of agricultural machinery and automotive engines. The share of growth attributable to the manufacturing sector will thus continue to increase, mainly due to external demand. While exports will be exposed to the risk that Myanmar’s preferential access to the European single market could be revoked in response to the Rohingya crisis, they will benefit from increased trade with China. Activity will also be stimulated by Chinese infrastructure investments under the Memorandum of Understanding on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). Despite accounting for one-third of GDP, the agricultural sector will make a more moderate growth contribution due to sagging external demand (notably from China, the country’s largest trading partner) and low productivity. At the same time, the mining and tourism sectors will continue to grow steadily, but will suffer from a lack of infrastructure. Inflation will remain high due to kyat depreciation coupled with dynamic private consumption, driven by remittances from expatriates.
A widening current account deficit and growing FDI inflows
The budget deficit is expected to remain stable despite the increase in infrastructure spending, which is necessary to meet the government's socio-economic development agenda. Revenue will come mainly from sales of goods and services by state-owned enterprises (although only 24 out of 32 are profitable) and taxes (on sales of goods and services and on income). Central bank deficit financing is expected to fall below the IMF target of 30% of total financing. The level of external public or state-guaranteed debt will remain sustainable (around 20% of GDP in 2019) and the associated risk is considered low by the IMF (mostly concessional debt), which has warned, however, that the central bank's foreign exchange reserves are too low.
The current account deficit is expected to widen, mainly due to the increase in the trade deficit related to imports of capital goods and raw materials for infrastructure projects financed by FDI. Exports will continue to increase, particularly to China, thanks to the new gas pipeline (gas is the most exported product, accounting for 20% of total exports) and the textile sector. The income deficit is also expected to increase in line with profit repatriation by foreign companies. The current account deficit will be financed by FDI inflows. The New Companies Law passed in 2019 facilitates access to the Burmese market for non-residents and should encourage foreign investment. Furthermore, to improve resilience to external shocks, the authorities have continued to liberalise the exchange rate, in particular by taking steps in February 2019 to establish the market exchange rate as the benchmark for all economic participants.
Treatment of minorities inconsistent with democratic improvements
The military junta was replaced in 2011 by a civilian government. The first free parliamentary elections since 1990, held in 2015, saw the National League for Democracy (NLD) win a majority. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the NLD and Nobel Peace Prize winner for her promotion of democracy, was appointed a state councillor, which allowed her to rule without being President (under the country’s constitution, she could not be President because of her family ties abroad). President Win Myint, elected in 2018, is the first President without military training in more than five decades. Nevertheless, a substantial part of the power remains in the hands of the army, which holds a constitutional right to 25% of the seats in parliament. The next parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn 2020, should see the NLD remain in the majority. These elections will, however, be more contested than those of 2015, with the military-backed Party of Union, Solidarity and Development (PUSD) enjoying increasing popular support due to the Rohingya crisis. Originally from Bangladesh, members of the Muslim minority Rohingya community have never obtained citizenship. Since August 2017, they have been abused by the army, with the UNHCR estimating that 10,000 people have been killed and more than 740,000 have found refuge in Bangladesh. The UN has described the situation as “ethnic cleansing”. The EU, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have all applied economic and political sanctions. In 2018, Myanmar requested the repatriation of refugees following international pressure, but no measures have been taken to guarantee their rights and security. After The Gambia filed a lawsuit for genocide before the ICJ, Aung San Suu Kyi was interviewed by the court in December where she held an ambiguous stance regarding the abuses perpetrated by the Burmese army. At the same time, the country enjoys good relations with ASEAN and China.
Last update: February 2020