Last week, it was a profound pleasure and a great honour for me to have the opportunity to attend one of the classes of Mr. Sean Turnell at the Yangon School of Political Science.
(This was taken at the end of the session at the Yangon School of Political Science)
For those who do not know Mr. Turnell, here is a little bit about who he is:
(This picture is taken from his Facebook timeline)
Mr. Sean Turnell currently is an associate professor at the Economics Department of Macquarie University, Sydney. Having been a researcher of Myanmar economy for almost 2 decades, Mr. Turnell has published many journals and has also written books on the Burmese economy. With an in depth understanding about Myanmar economic condition, he is also a regular commentator about Myanmar on the international media platforms. Nonetheless, he is also an advisor to many institutions including the US State Department, USAID, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the World Bank, Open Society Foundation, and many other international bodies. Currently, he is an economic advisor to Daw Aung San Su Kyi of the National League for Democracy.
I have learned a great deal from his class despite the fact that I was there for only the last 3 hours. (Better late than never, right?)
Here are just a few things that I have accumulated from that short but invaluable period of time:
Agriculture: The Start of The Right Direction
Like many other countries in South East Asia, agriculture is a big part of Myanmar economy. With 2/3 of her population working in this sector, agriculture is accounted for around 40% of the country GDP. From this point alone, we can already assume that with the right strategies, reforming this sector would create a larger impact on the country economy. However, little effort had been made into improving this sector by the latest government. The main reason behind this might be due to the nature of the previous government itself, which is dominated by the tycoons and the cronies.
Mr. Turnell also did express a strong hope on the newly elected government, which is to be sworn into office later this year that many actions will be taken to develop this sector.
Coming back to the benefits of agricultural reform, one of the main positive results is the improvement of the standard of livings among the middle class and the poor people. Beside the top 10% or 20% of the country, many people whose incomes are still on the average or even lower will greatly benefit from this reform. By removing the restrictions on the trades and smoothening the financing process, the agricultural market will open up and the people will be able to take advantage of the abandon natural resources in Myanmar.
A great example of this would be Vietnam, who was in the past produced nearly zero amount of coffee, is now the second world biggest producer in that field.
There, however, will be a lot factors that the government needs to look at very closely including the land ownership problem (NLD currently is working an organisation called Landesa regarding this matter), farming techniques, irrigation system and so on.
As many and many more people are better off, the government then can slowly shift to other sectors especially in industrialising the country. The result is believed to be better and faster after having sorted out the agricultural problem because as the farmer are getting richer the country can move from exporting raw materials to exporting finished products or work-in-progress ones with higher prices.
In short, by focusing first on improving the farmers’ lives, the government is embarking on the right director in the economic and social reform.
I will post part 2 of this blog very soon. It will contain the banking systems, rural financing, liberal democracy and capital market of Myanmar.
Thank you for reading this.