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Myanmar’s moment

By A. Michael Spence and Richard Dobbs

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As a starting point we need to build on Myanmar’s “Mandela moment” – the euphoria surrounding the freeing of political prisoners – to address the shockingly weak position of Myanmar’s economy.

President Thein Sein of Myanmar (pictured) is making his first visit to Britain this week. He will be holding talks in London at a critical moment in Myanmar’s emergence from isolation.

Politics and ethnic tensions continue to cast a shadow over the broad sense of optimism about the business opportunity. But developing its economy is probably the major challenge facing Myanmar.

A country of 50m people, Myanmar today represents only 0.2 per cent of Asia’s GDP, or roughly the GDP of the city of Bristol – the result of years of economic isolation and political turbulence. Without growth and a rapid economic transformation that provides palpable benefits to Myanmar’s citizens, the momentum towards democracy and peace could all too easily falter. Myanmar’s international supporters must broaden the dialogue beyond political reform and the peace process to how they can also support this economic transformation.

Read full article as published in Financial Times.

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A. Michael Spence is the William R. Berkley Professor in Economics & Business.