A long journey ahead for Myanmar’s foreign exchange market reform

People exchange US dollar and Myanmar currency at a black market in Yangon, Myanmar, 25 August 2011. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Koji Kubo, JETRO

In April 2012, by abolishing the official pegging of the Myanmar kyat to the Special Drawing Right (SDR) of the IMF, Myanmar terminated the decades-old de facto multiple exchange rate system and moved to a managed floating exchange system. While noteworthy in its own right, this is merely the first step in an arduous journey of foreign exchange market reform. The Central Bank of Myanmar is now facing two interlinked challenges: establishing the institutions for a formal foreign exchange market and transferring informal market activities into the formal market. Read more…

Abe’s aid reform, in the name of peace?

Myanmar President Thein Sein, left, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, at Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Fumitaka Furuoka, University of Malaya

On 26 June 2014, a panel of specialists under Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida submitted a report that recommended transforming Japan’s foreign aid policy into a ‘strategic’ diplomatic tool. Based on the panel’s recommendations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun the process of revising the fundamental guidelines of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA). This process is to be completed before the end of this year. Read more…

Jokowi saves Indonesia’s democracy (and maybe Southeast Asia’s too)

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana show their ballots before giving their vote during the presidential election. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Many years from now, the electoral victory of Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi) may be seen as pivotal to the fate of democracy and regionalism in Southeast Asia. A win by Jokowi’s opponent Prabowo Subianto would have been a retrograde step for Indonesia, promising shades of authoritarianism even with a popular mandate. Jokowi’s victory, on the other hand, bodes well not just for Indonesia’s future but also for the region’s democratic prospects and ASEAN’s forward momentum. Read more…

BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade

A vender weights corn for a customer at a market in Yingjiang, near the Myanmar border, Yunnan Province, China, 26 May 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, Institute of Economic Growth

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. Read more…

ASEAN to face a summit of challenges

People sell goods at a street market in downtown Yangon. Myanmar is to hold 24th ASEAN Summit in the capital Naypyidaw over May 10-11.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: K. Kesavapany, National University of Singapore

The ASEAN summit in Yangon is taking place at a time of global and regional uncertainties. The drums of war are beginning to sound in Europe, with the possibility of the conflict in Ukraine spilling over and derailing the existing geopolitical order. In the East, tensions over the South China Sea are threatening to cause geopolitical upheaval and damage aspirations to found an East Asian Community. Read more…

The evolution of Sino–American competition in Myanmar

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks after a meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 20 May 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

For decades, China has been Myanmar’s principal international partner. In the years preceding Myanmar’s opening up, China dominated Myanmar’s foreign discourse as an important economic and military partner, and a source of international diplomatic protection due to the diplomatic isolation and widespread sanctions imposed on Myanmar by the West, especially after the 1988 coup. Read more…

Fight or flight for foreign capital in Myanmar?

A girl chats on her mobile phone near Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar on 30 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Josh Wood, ANU

Myanmar is in the midst of a foreign investment boom.

Over the last 12 months it has received over US$3.6 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI), an increase of nearly 300 per cent, according to government figures released in February. Despite this encouraging news, enormous barriers to future investment remain, and if reforms are not quickly enacted, foreign capital may take flight as quickly as it has arrived.   Read more…

Road to constitutional amendment in Myanmar going nowhere

Workers carry salt in Maekaye village, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Melissa Crouch, NUS

Since Myanmar’s Joint Parliamentary Constitution Review Committee submitted its report to the Union Parliament on 31 January 2014, the constitutional amendment saga has taken another twist.

The Committee was given the task of reviewing the 2008 Constitution, which had been drafted by the previous military junta. It was required to make recommendations to the parliament, yet it ultimately avoided this responsibility. Read more…

Myanmar dressing for a role on the world stage

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a lounge suit and Prime Minister Thein Sein in Myanmar's traditional business attire at the UN donor conference at Yangon in May 2008. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Chit Win, ANU

In the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008, ASEAN and the UN organised an international pledging conference in Myanmar to rally international financial support. It was the biggest international event of its kind in the country’s history. Read more…

A way through for Myanmar

Myanmar President Thein Sein greets Myanmar Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a dinner reception to mark the 67th anniversary Union Day on 12 February 2014, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Union Day is seen as the birthday of the Myanmar nation. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The story of Myanmar’s political and economic reform in the past few years is still unfolding and the next 18 months will be critical to whether it will be a success or failure, as the country moves through a decisive phase of constitutional reform towards the 2015 elections. But one thing is clear. The country has been blessed in its journey thus far by exceptional leadership, not only in Aung San Suu Kyi’s steadfast quest for democratic reform but also in president U Thein Sein Read more…

Balancing reform and justice in Myanmar

People attend a National League for Democracy public consultation led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on amending the 2008 Constitution in Yangon, Myanmar, 10 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

The reform agenda enacted by President Sein has been impressive on many fronts. The last three years signal he has a real desire to change major aspects of the state and society.

But these reforms have not reached the security portfolios and institutional independence of the military. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s ASEAN chairmanship lead to national reconciliation?

From left, Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, Singaporean Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Thai Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Brunei Foreign Minister Mohamed Bolkiah, Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Cambodia's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pou Sothirak, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh of Vietnam, pose for group photos at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations retreat in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar 17 January, 2014. It is the first ASEAN meeting being held in Myanmar since the country assumed chairmanship of the 10-member regional grouping late last year. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eliane Coates, RSIS

Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year will become an open display of its progress in undertaking national economic and political reforms. Naypyidaw’s hosting of ASEAN has the potential to improve Myanmar’s international reputation, national economy and, potentially, domestic reconciliation efforts.

Long seen as a pariah state, Myanmar sees the ASEAN chairmanship as an opportunity to demonstrate its reformist credentials and a platform to re-engage the international community. Read more…

Myanmar must step on the gas for fiscal reform

Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 18 November 2012 for the 21st ASEAN summit. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Josh Wood, ANU

Myanmar’s narrow tax base and overreliance on resource revenues is laying the foundations for a future fiscal crisis. If reforms are not urgently undertaken the government may not be able to provide basic services and risks becoming seriously indebted. In either scenario, recently attracted foreign investors will quickly take flight. Read more…

Keep an eye on the people with the guns in Myanmar’s transition

Myanmar military officers stand during the 68th anniversary celebrations of Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, March 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Lex Rieffel, Brookings Institution

I fear that Myanmar’s transition to better governance could start to go off the rails in 2014. While a serious train wreck seems unlikely, the mood in the country could sour as problems pile up, which could make the national election expected at the end of 2015 a messy affair. As a result, the new government that will likely take office in early 2016 might be less effective than the current one. Read more…