My journey to Chin state in Myanmar began with a simple question from my colleague – “Where do you want to go?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, “Anywhere is fine.”
This was it. I had volunteered to join the World Bank Group’s Myanmar Performance Learning Review consultations, which are being held across the country this month to obtain feedback from the government, private sector and civil society on our Country Partnership Framework. Approved in 2015, the partnership is the first World Bank Group strategy for Myanmar in 30 years and consultations are being held to discuss lessons-learned, review achievements and consider adjustments.
Migrants represent 15% of Malaysia’s workforce, making the country home to the fourth largest number of migrants in the East Asia Pacific region. The migrant population is diverse, made up of workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, China and India, among many other countries.
Myanmar in 2012, when we started our financial sector engagement, and Myanmar today seem like two different worlds. Back then, sim cards cost close to US$500, visitors carried wads of crisp, new dollar bills, Yangon streets were filled with old models of Toyotas and Nissans, while the capital Nay Pyi Taw had only rickety hotels. Now streets lined with old shops have given way to $1 sim cards, brand new car models, international hotel chains and gleaming new shopping malls. ATMs and “We accept Visa and Master Card” signs are now nearly ubiquitous in the country’s cities.
In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in the EAP region put themselves on a path that focused on growth driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.
High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity and growth without stoking inequality.
Emerging technologies are transforming global logistics. The evidence is everywhere: Logistics companies are exploring autonomous fleets and “lights-out” warehousing, and are looking to Big Data for transport management and predictive analytics. Crowdsourcing start-ups are using a high-tech/asset-light business model. And e-brokerage platforms are providing real-time information from pickup to delivery.
In our previous post, we discussed some of the major land-related challenges facing Myanmar’s transition and development. In fact, resolving outstanding land issues will help the country achieve social cohesion and stability, poverty reduction, sustainable urbanization, as well as economic growth.
The government has already started taking measures to institute strong and effective land administration.
Struggles over land in Myanmar have been a defining characteristic of the country’s six decades of armed conflict.
In the past, government acquired lands for extracting natural resources, commercialized farming, and ambitious infrastructure projects, such as building of the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw. Today, claims over land acquisition injustices dominate public discourse and the new government’s agenda. In parallel, infrastructure and institutions for land administration and property markets are grossly outdated and weak.
Successful development is about making a reality of aspirations and ambitious ideas through effective implementation – Myanmar can achieve just that for its people by instilling the values of transparency, accountability and public participation in its public sector.
Ideas and policies matter. They have the power to be transformative. A strong and efficient, transparent and accountable public sector is crucial for translating inspiring ideas and policies into real development outcomes. If we liken Myanmar to a car, then the public sector – a collection of institutions, processes and people which together function as the machinery of government – has an important role to play. The people of Myanmar sit in the driver’s seat, the private sector is the engine which moves the economy forward – and the public sector acts as the car’s transmission and gearbox. If it’s running well, the car moves forward smoothly – but if it’s poorly maintained, people may be in for a bumpy ride.
As in much of the rest of the developing world, developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) have made progress in closing many gender disparities, particularly in areas such as education and health outcomes. Even on the gender gaps that still remain significant, more is now known about why these have remained “sticky” despite rapid economic progress.
Ensuring that women and girls are on a level playing field with men and boys is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It is right because gender equality is a core objective of development. And it is smart because gender equality can spur development. It has been estimated, for instance, that labor productivity in developing East Asia and Pacific could be 7-18% higher if women had equal access to productive resources and worked in the same sectors and types of jobs as men.