ABSTRACT

Despite early efforts to industrialise during the 1990s, Myanmar is still predominantly an agrarian economy. As for many other East Asian states, the only way for Myanmar to reduce poverty might be to go through a structural transformation from agriculture to industry and services where labour productivity is higher. The chapter reassesses Myanmar’s industrial policies in the last decades, from command economy and import-substitution policies in the early days of military rule, to partial engagement with global capital under Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi. As special economic zones (SEZs) and industrial parks may play a critical role in supporting the industrialisation of the country, the chapter looks at the main projects currently under way. Although SEZs represent a way of compensating an overall poor investment climate creating attractive conditions in specific locations, they alone cannot be appropriate substitutes for improving infrastructure and the general investment climate: Myanmar still lacks the necessary legal/institutional framework and policy mechanism needed to accelerate industrial development.