Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Foreign investment = employment = rising living standards?

There have recently been a slew of articles from news sources around the world predicting an economic boom in Myanmar, with foreign investors "creating jobs", "lifting the population out of poverty" and "growing the middle class", while at the same time "making a killing" for themselves. Is the economic transformation in Myanmar a win-win process for everyone involved? I'm not so sure. Like other transformations, there are bound to be both winners and losers, and a more balanced and systematic analysis of the costs and benefits of this transition is needed.  In any case, here is a recent account by Australia's ABC news network:
It will take time for Burma's 60-million-strong population to see the economic benefits of the new interest, but already there is an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, amid concern that people will be forgotten by international investors who are only looking to extract profits. "This is a labour-intensive country - there's lots of labour available. People need jobs, people are unemployed, people are impoverished, people are underemployed," says development consultant Daniel Gelfer. "There's a need for massive employment both in skilled and unskilled labour, and I hope that investment would help fill some of those gaps." Industries previously flattened by trade restrictions are preparing for an economic revival. Among them is the garment sector, which before sanctions employed more than 300,000 people.... "We have about 150 factories running at the moment with 100,000 workers - at one time down to 60,000 thousand workers from 350,000 workers - and we are trying to create a job opportunity for them," said Khine Khine Nwe from Burma's Garment Manufacturer's Association.

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