Myanmar eyes microfinance, private sector development

Thein Sein, president of Myanmar, addresses the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly. Photo by: Jennifer S. Altman / United Nations

Myanmar’s leader has identified the creation of microfinance and other private-sector organizations as top priorities for the country, ahead of a highly anticipated gathering with international investors later this month.

The First Myanmar Development Cooperation Forum, slated for Jan. 19-20 in Nay Pyi Taw, is meant to produce a national development plan to guide aid groups, financiers and other foreign partners. Details so far are scarce - “there hasn’t been a wealth of stakeholder consultation on this conference yet,” one representative of an international nongovernmental organization told Devex.

Just before the end of the year, however, Myanmar President U Thein Sein gave a glimpse of his development priorities.

In the second meeting of the Foreign Aid Management Central Committee on Dec. 28, he highlighted the importance of establishing microfinance banks and public corporations to invite private investment and alleviate poverty, according to his office. He also stressed the need for interest-free and low-interest loans, without going into much detail on technical assistance.

The goal, Thein Sein said, is “people-centered development” through a mix of short and long-term projects that are conducted in a way that is transparent, accountable and engaging the public, coordinated well and led by the implementers - preferrably Myanmar’s government itself.

As inspirations, Thein Sein cited the Marshall Plan, the U.S. plan to help rebuild Europe after World War II, as well as more recent economic growth in countries like Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam. He emphasized the need for effective management of resources and suggested the use of some sort of an “index to measure the outcomes of the projects to ensure their profitability to the society.”

Myanmar has seen an influx of international donors and aid groups over the past year as the country advanced pro-democracy reforms. Recent pledges include $170 million made by U.S. President Barack Obama during a historic visit in November; the World Bank already approved $80 million in financing. The country is also set to receive $3 million and $7.28 million in humanitarian assistance from the Nippon Foundation and the European Union, respectively.

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About the author

  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.