Economy of Burma

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$6.504 billion (2009 est.)

$3.555 billion (2009 est.)

The Economy of Burma or (Myanmar) is one of the least developed in the world, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement, and isolation. Burma’s GDP grows at an average rate of 2.9% annually – the lowest rate of economic growth in the Greater Mekong Subregion.[1]

The current state of the Burmese economy has also had a significant impact on Burmese demographics, as economic hardship results in extreme delays of marriage and family building. The average age of marriage in Burma is 27.5 for men, 26.4 for women, almost unparalleled in the region, with the exception of developed countries like Singapore.[2][3] Burma also has a low fertility rate, of 2.07 children per woman (2010), especially as compared to other Southeast Asian countries of similar economic standing, like Cambodia (3.18) and Laos (4.41), representing a significant decline from 4.7 in 1983, despite the absence of a national population policy.[4] This is at least partly attributed to the economic strain that additional children place on the family income, and has resulted in the prevalence of illegal abortions in the country, as well as use of other forms of birth control.[5]



Under British colonial rule, Burma was the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia. It was also once the world's largest exporter of rice. During British administration, Burma supplied oil through the Burmah Oil Company. Burma also had a wealth of natural and labor resources. It produced 75% of the world's teak and had a highly literate population.[6] The country was believed to be on the fast track to development.[6]

After a parliamentary government was formed in 1948, Prime Minister U Nu attempted to make Burma a welfare state and adopted central planning. Rice exports fell by two thirds and mineral exports by over 96%. Plans were partly financed by printing money, which led to inflation.[7] The 1962 coup d'état was followed by an economic scheme called the Burmese Way to Socialism, a plan to nationalize all industries, with the exception of agriculture. The catastrophic program turned Burma into one of the world's most impoverished countries.[8][9] Burma's admittance to Least Developed Country status by the UN in 1987 highlighted its economic bankruptcy.[10]

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