Although the garment industry has suffered under COVID-19 with hundreds of factories closed and tens of thousands of workers sent home, the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) believes renewed investor interest will get the sector back on its feet.
Although garment exports had been steadily growing, exports are down USD 24 million from the same point last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data reported by the Myanmar Times. However, MIC data reported by state media shows that three quarters of the 178 foreign enterprises approved over the current fiscal year have or will invest in manufacturing—a sector dominated by garments. “We are hearing news of orders that were previously cancelled being revived again. There is also some export revenue coming from the Myanmar-Thai border, where garment businesses in Myawaddy have exported around USD 71 million worth of products to Thailand,” the Myanmar Times quoted U Khin Maung Lwin, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, as saying.
Meanwhile, the EU has given more than MMK 1 billion to support nearly 13,000 out-of-work garment factory workers, the majority of whom are women. Yet it remains unclear if the foreign aid and renewed investor interest will do anything to calm longstanding worker unrest. Protests and strikes had plagued the industry well before the pandemic, with worker groups calling for a higher minimum wage and stronger protection against bosses, among other demands.