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Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Myanmar's economy recorded high growth rates through most of the 1990s. As seen in Figure 1, GDP growth rates after 1991-92 ranged between 5.7 and 9.7 percent, an average of nearly 6 percent growth annually.

Figure 1. GDP growth rates 1991/92-1998/99

Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Table 1 shows the annual GDP growth rates by sector. For the latest three fiscal years in which data is available (1996/97-1998/99), the three fastest growing sectors were mining (average of 16.37 percent annual growth), construction (average of 13.57 percent annual growth), and livestock and fisheries (average of 9.43 percent annual growth).

Table 1. GDP growth rates by sector, 1992/93-1998/99 (in percent)

  92-93 93-94 94-95 95-96 96-97 97-98 98-99
Goods 11 6 6.9 6.7 6.4 5.1 4.9
Agriculture 12.4 4.7 6.7 5.5 3.8 3 3.5
Livestock/Fisheries 4.5 4.8 6 3 11.9 7.1 9.3
Manufacturing 10.8 9.4 8.5 7.6 4.6 5 6.2
Mining 32 13.8 21.3 18.5 12.4 29.7 7
Power 31.1 24.4 4.8 6.6 12.8 17.8 -5.4
Construction 11.2 11.7 15.7 27.2 24.6 9.8 6.3
Services 6.1 8 10 9.3 8.3 8.8 7.8
Trade Sector 8.9 4.6 7 5.7 5 5 6.3
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Myanmar's GDP is still comprised mainly of goods, as seen in Figure 2. Goods accounted for approximately 60 percent of GDP in 1998-99, while trade and services contributed 21 and 19 percent, respectively.

Figure 2. General composition of GDP as of 1998-99

Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Main Economic Sectors



Myanmar's economy is still heavily reliant on agriculture. Agriculture accounted for 34.4 percent of GDP in 1999-2000. No other sector comes close to matching agriculture's contributions to the national economy. The next largest sectors, manufacturing and livestock/fisheries, comprised 9.1percent and 7.5 percent of GDP in 1998-99.With such a large percentage of the country's GDP and employment (see below) hinging on agriculture, steady growth in the sector is crucial if Myanmar's economy is going to improve.
Myanmar's overall GDP has recorded some impressive gains since the mid-1990s, but the growth rates for agriculture are somewhat disappointing over the past few years. 
Table 1 shows a comparison of GDP growth and agriculture growth between 1994-95. 

Table 1. Real growth of GDP and agriculture, 1994/95-1998/99 (in percent)

  1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99
GDP 7.5 6.9 6.4 5.7 5.8
Agriculture 6.7 5.5 3.8 3.0 3.5
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Equally important is agriculture's contribution to employment. Sixty-three percent of the labour
force is engaged in the agriculture sector, indicating that agriculture will be a key sector in the
economy for some time to come. Also notable is the percentage of manufacturing firms related to agriculture. Over 58 percent of all manufacturing firms are in the food and beverage industry. Rice is the staple crop and the second largest export commodity, after teak. Other important crops are sugar cane, groundnuts, sesame, wheat, maize, millet, jute, cotton, beans, pulses and oilseeds, vegetables, rubber, toddy palm, tobacco, spices and other edible produce.


The manufacturing and processing sector accounts for nine percent of the country's GDP.
Manufacturing's contribution to GDP remained steady at 9.1 percent between 1996/97 and 1998/99. Annual growth in the manufacturing sector is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Annual growth rates in manufacturing and processing sector, 1992/93-1998/99

  1992-93 1993-94 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99
Manufacturing 10.8 9.4 8.5 7.6 4.6 5.0 6.2
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

The principal industrial activities relate to agriculture, such as food processing and tobacco products, but other important industries include wood-based industries, beverages, clothing, jewelry, metal, pharmaceutical and household goods, paper and chemical, cement, animal feed, and iron and steel products.

Livestock and fisheries

With much available land and a lengthy coastline, livestock and fisheries is the third most important sector in terms of GDP. Livestock and fisheries contributed between 6.8 and 7.5 percent of GDP from 1992/93 to 1998/99. Growth rates in this sector over the past four fiscal years (1995/96-1998/99) averaged 7.8 percent. A variety of fish, shrimps, and other aquatic creatures are harvested from the ocean and rivers, while the typical livestock such as cattle, pigs, and chicken are raised throughout the country.

International Trade

Myanmar has bilateral trade agreements with several countries, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and seven countries in Eastern Europe. It also intends to develop more border trade with China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, India and Bangladesh. Trade with regional neighbours is facilitated through Myanmar's memberships in various regional groupings such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC). Myanmar's ASEAN membership provides numerous trade benefits with the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), which is making rapid progress in lowering and eventually removing tariffs for intra-ASEAN trade. The less well-known BIMST-EC, formed in 1997, has plans for a preferential trade area and eventually a free trade area.
However, one result of Myanmar's reintegration into the global economy has been an increasing
trade deficit. Part of the trade deficit is due to climatic conditions that periodically hurt rice exports and the overall decline in global market prices for agriculture commodities. Figure 1. shows Myanmar's trade deficit from 1995/96 to 1998/99.

Figure 1. Myanmars trade deficit, 1995/96-1998/99

Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development


Myanmar's exports have risen steadily over the past four fiscal years. Table 1. shows export values from 1995/96 to 1998/99.

Table 1. Myanmar export value (in millions of kyat), 1995/96-1998/99

  1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99
Exports 5,044 5,488 6,290 7,700
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Figure 2 demonstrates the main export items for fiscal year 1998-99. Pulses and beans were the leading export item, far surpassing rice and other agriculture commodities. As seen in Figure 1, the main exports are essentially raw commodities as opposed to manufactured goods.

Figure 2. Main exports, FY 1998-99 (in million kyat)

Source: Central Statistical Organization, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Poor weather conditions resulted in reduced rice exports in 1995-96, and the export levels have not reached their full potential ever since. However, growth in other export products, especially
hardwoods, pulses, and fisheries, has helped boost export growth despite the fall in rice.
Myanmar's main export markets are its giant neighbours to the north and west. China and India
combined for over 26 percent of Myanmar's exports in 1998/99 (see Figure 3). This high
percentage of exports to China and India indicates that Myanmar traders are taking advantage of their strategic proximity to the world's two largest markets.

Figure 3. Exports by country of destination, 1998/99

Source: Central Statistical Organization, Ministry of National Planning and Economic

In terms of border trade, Myanmar and China have a robust partnership that accounted for 71 percent of Myanmar's total cross-border exports and 82 percent of its total cross-border imports in 1998-99. Thailand is the second largest border trade partner, followed by Bangladesh and then India.


Imported products continue to outpace exports despite measures since 1998 to reduce the need for imported goods. Myanmar continues to rely on imports of machinery, vehicles and parts, edible oils, and other categories of goods, as seen in Figure 4. The opening up of more border
checkpoints along the borders with Thailand and China has resulted in a large influx of consumer products as well.

Figure 4. Main imports, FY 1998-99 (in million kyat)

Source: Central Statistical Organization, Ministry of National Planning and Economic

Singapore is Myanmar's largest source of goods, comprising over 30 percent of total imports in 1998-99, followed by Japan, China, and then Indonesia (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Imports by country of origin, 1998/99

Source: Central Statistical Organization, Ministry of National Planning and Economic


Myanmar experienced a surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) soon after opening up its economy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As of mid-2000, FDI surpassed US$7.2 billion from 337 investment projects. Table 1 shows that the oil and gas sector accounts for the largest amount of FDI in terms of dollar value, although manufacturing has the most projects. Hotels and other forms of real estate were particularly popular with investors in the early and mid 1990s in anticipation of a high demand for international business quality hotels and offices.
Machinery & Transport Equipment Base Metals & Manufactures Electrical Machinery Edible Oils Cement Others

Table 1. Foreign investment in Myanmar as of June 30, 2000 (in US$ millions)

Sector No. of Projects Approved Amount
Oil and gas 51 2,356
Manufacturing 131 1,514
Hotel and Tourism 42 1,054
Real Estate 18 997
Mining 50 523
Livestock and Fisheries 20 283
Transport & Communication 13 281
Industrial Estates 3 193
Construction 1 17
Agriculture 3 14
Other Services 5 14
Total 337 7,246
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

The main source of FDI in Myanmar is from ASEAN countries, which account for three of the top four top investors (see Table 2). In total, five ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand) collectively pledged 155 projects worth US$3,757 million.
These projects account for over half of the total FDI flows to Myanmar. The European Union (EU) has 47 projects worth over US$2,181 million.

Table 2. Main foreign investors by country, as of June 2000 (in US$ millions)

Country No. of Projects Approved Amount
Singapore 69 1,510
United Kingdom 35 1,372
Thailand 47 1,264
Malaysia 27 597
USA 16 582
France 3 470
The Netherlands 5 239
Indonesia 10 239
Japan 22 233
China (incl. Hong Kong) 35 169
The Philippines 2 147
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development

Domestic investment is seen in Table 3. Real estate and manufacturing are the top sectors in
terms of kyat, while manufacturing and mining have the largest number of projects.

Table 3. Domestic investment as of June 2000 (in million kyat)

Sector No. of Projects Approved Amount
Real Estate Development 22 27,176
Manufacturing 288 18,214
Construction 5 5,316
Transport 5 4,368
Livestock & Fisheries 21 1,876
Hotel and Tourism 13 1,104
Industrial Estate 1 1,013
Mining 31 788
Agriculture 5 548<
Others 10 1,255
Total 401 61,959
Source: Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development


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