The global policy community has focused on the political challenges facing the government of President Thein Sein in Myanmar and paid little attention to the economic challenges.
Yet without economic improvements at the grass roots, political progress may founder. Urgent policy challenges confront almost every aspect of the Myanmar economy. Here are the top 10 issues.
The single biggest source of Myanmar government revenue is hard currency earnings from exporting natural gas. A widely held view is that a large portion of these earnings is siphoned off into the pockets of powerful people. The credibility of the Thein Sein administration will depend greatly on how quickly it moves to show that the earnings from natural resource exports are being used for social development purposes. In an encouraging sign, President Thein Sein recently went on record to support Myanmar’s participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
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China has a couple of options here. It could choose to be unhappy about this, but not make it a big issue. The other way they could see it is the first step in a kind of probe towards moving towards an official relationship. [Beijing] might calculate that it is better to react vigorously and strongly with the first step rather than wait for the situation to get worse.