Myanmar :: Economy

Agriculture rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane; hardwood; fish and fish products
In Myanmar, elephants are used to log the teak forests that were once their home. Each elephant is guided by its own handler called oozie who rides on its back. Discover the power of elephants in selective logging.

Inle Lake is a freshwater lake in the mountains of Shan State. Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive leg rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. Just as unique is their fishing method which uses a tall conical trap with a net in the center. The fisherman pushes it to the bottom of the lake. He then thrusts a long pole into the center of the net a few times and lifts the trap out of the water.

Industries agricultural processing; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; cement, construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; natural gas; garments, jade and gems

Exports: gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice, clothing, jade and gems

Imports: fabric, petroleum products, fertilizer, plastics, machinery, transport equipment; cement, construction materials, crude oil; food products, edible oil

Currency: kyat (MMK)

Exchange rates: kyats per US dollar - 1,280 (2006)

Overview: Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, and rural poverty. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism," but those efforts stalled, and some of the liberalization measures were rescinded. Lacking monetary or fiscal stability, the economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including rising inflation, fiscal deficits, multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, a distorted interest rate regime, unreliable statistics, and an inability to reconcile national accounts to determine a realistic GDP figure.

Official statistics are inaccurate. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be as large as the official economy.

Most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently refused to honor the results of the 1990 legislative elections. In response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy, the US imposed new economic sanctions in August 2003 against Burma - including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons. Further, a poor investment climate hampers attracting outside investment slowing the inflow of foreign exchange.

The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries, especially oil and gas, mining, and timber with the latter especially causing environmental degradation. Other areas, such as manufacturing and services, are struggling with inadequate infrastructure, unpredictable import/export policies, deteriorating health and education systems, and endemic corruption.

A major banking crisis in 2003 shuttered the country's 20 private banks and disrupted the economy. As of 2006, the largest private banks operate under tight restrictions limiting the private sector's access to formal credit. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, better investment and business climates and an improved political situation are needed to promote serious foreign investment, exports, and tourism.

Source: World Factbook, updated August 2007