Every minute, dozens of people in East Asia move from the countryside to the city.
The massive population shift is creating some of the world’s biggest mega-cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila, as well as hundreds of medium and smaller urban areas.
There are many kinds of rice and one of the most popular varieties in Myanmar is called Emata. This word literally means that it’s so delicious that a visitor is still sitting and eating. Emata lives up to its name- people in Myanmar love it for its long grain, fluffy and slightly sticky texture after cooking. This rice variety is also one of their main exports.
People find it troubling that the price of Emata has risen by more than 40% over the last five years. The price of rice has also been fluctuating sharper than in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia. Since Myanmar’s domestic rice market is weakly integrated into global markets, domestic factors are the primary reason behind high price fluctuations.
I met a young rice farmer during my recent trip to Myanmar. He has a tiny plot of land on the outskirts of the irrigation system and could harvest only one rice crop a year. Even if he worked hard, and the weather was at its best, he produced only enough rice to feed his family for 10 months. During the last two months of the rice-growing season, he would walk around his village, a small plastic cup in his hands, and ask neighbors if he could borrow some rice. This would happen year after year.
Unfortunately, this story is not uncommon. A majority of Myanmar’s laborers work in agriculture. A third of them live below the poverty line and depend on rice for survival.
There is clear and present danger that another global food price crisis will emerge sooner than later.
A key signal is the lackluster result of the December 2013 Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Bali, Indonesia - in the heart of the ASEAN community.
The compromises arising from the WTO Bali meeting further demonstrates that many WTO member-nations have returned to a focus on internal domestic politics, sacrificing long-term gains shared across nations, in favor of short-term gains motivated largely by domestic political survival or sheer short-sightedness.
Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Vice President for East Asia & the Pacific, visited Myanmar from May 12-16 to observe some of the initial results of the National Community Driven Development Project, the World Bank’s first project in the country in 25 years.
Those unfamiliar with the fast growing emerging economies of East Asia are likely to think that governments in these countries let market forces and capitalism roam free, red in tooth and claw. That was certainly my impression before coming to work in the region, and generally that held at the outset of our work by the group of us that wrote a new World Bank report “East Asia Pacific At Work: Employment, Enterprise and Wellbeing” .
The report shows just how wrong we were. We could be forgiven this impression—many of us had come from assignments in Latin America and the Caribbean or in Europe and Central Asia, where the distortions and rigidities from labor regulation and poorly designed social protection are rife, and where policy makers cast envious looks at the stellar and sustained employment outcomes in East Asia.
Well, it turns out that although they came relatively late to labor regulation and social protection, many governments in the region have entered this arena with gusto. We were surprised to find that, going just by what is written in their labor codes, the average level of employment protection in East Asia is actually higher than the OECD average.
- Social Development
- Law and Regulation
- Labor and Social Protection
- Financial Sector
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Korea, Republic of
The Yangon Circular Railway is the local commuter rail network in Yangon, Myanmar. In this recording, World Bank Country Manager Kanthan Shankar boards the train on a three-hour ride around the city. "You see a panorama of life unfolding before you and you feel a part of the picture," he says, reflecting on the daily lives of the people in Yangon, "There's a huge opportunity for commerce and private sector growth. Yangon and Myanmar is lucky that it has basic infrastructure in place. It's a matter of rehabilitating these and aiming for a smoother ride to pave the way for commerce,"
It is estimated that less than 20 percent of the population of Myanmar uses formal financial services, says Eric Duflos in the CGAP blog.
|Axel talks about his trip to Myanmar in a video below.|
You can feel the energy in Myanmar today—from the streets of Yangon, in the offices of government ministries and in rural villages. Dramatic political and economic changes are sweeping the country.