Myanmar’s Economy Changes
The country of Myanmar is one of the more mysterious countries in the world thanks to its current military rule which has precluded a great deal of Western involvement in recent years. However, in it’s more distant past Myanmar, which was commonly known as Burma, enjoyed a prominent place in the world economy.
Before Burma was colonized by the British in the late 19th century, the economy of Myanmar was built on the production of rice. However, the chief asset in the development of Myanmar was its location. Between China and the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar became a very important trading center for the region. The economy of Myanmar grew significantly under British rule starting in 1886 which Rangoon, the capitol Myanmar was taken over.
The Colonial Era for Myanmar lasted until 1948. During that time, the country expanded upon its natural resources including the production of oil, teak and the mining of gems. Myanmar had plenty of natural resources to exploit and combined with its favorable location thrived as a center for trade. Under British rule, Myanmar produced three-quarters of the world’s teak and was one of the largest exporters of rice. The population benefitted greatly under their robust economy becoming highly literate. Myanmar had become the richest country in Southeast Asia.
World War 2 changed the economy of Myanmar dramatically as the country was invaded by the Japanese. However, British soldiers combined with the Myanmar population managed to curb the invasion and by the end of the war the British, their Empire waning began the slow withdrawal from the country. A parliamentary government was formed in Myanmar in 1948 and the process of nationalization had begun.
Unfortunately, the economy of Myanmar suffered dramatically under the new nationalization policy, which included a program called the “Eight Year Plan”. This plan was poorly thought out and resulted in rice exports dropping by over two-thirds and mineral exports almost completely vanishing. The downward spiral of the economy of Myanmar was such during the first 15 years of independence that the government was overthrown in 1962 and the new ruling regime forced through an economic plan title “Burmese Way to Socialism” which nationalized all the industries of the country. This proved to be a complete disaster and the development of Myanmar from richest country in Southeast Asia to the poorest was in full swing.
In 1988, the Burmese military took over the country and changed the name of the nation to Myanmar which resulted in even less trade and openness than before. The depressed economy stagnated even further over the next twenty years curbing the development of Myanmar even further. However, a series of natural disasters and runaway inflation finally took enough of a toll on the country to help open it up to the world in 2011. Despite having most of its trade banned in Western countries such as the US and Canada, Myanmar has opened up some of it’s infrastructure to Asian markets.
Today, the development of Myanmar is showing some promise through foreign interest and investment. While the economy of Myanmar still has a long way to go, the natural resources of this nation remain in place to help bring it back to its once prominent state.