Economic minister vows to ‘build back better’

As the new COVID-19 wave slams the economy, Union minister for investment and foreign economic relations U Thaung Tun has vowed that the country will weather the storm and emerge even stronger than before.

“In a different time, our isolated economy afforded us a degree of protection from the ravages of such pandemics. Yet in a new Myanmar — greater connectivity and economic integration have left us exposed to black swan events such as this,” the minister wrote in a column published in the Global New Light of Myanmar. He acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on industries such as tourism and hospitality and manufacturing, as well as small and medium enterprises. Yet, he said, the government will ramp up its already robust COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan with “a new, comprehensive and inclusive medium- to longer-term Myanmar Economic Recovery and Reform Programme (MERRP) with which to sustain an economic reform journey begun just four years ago.” The MERRP program will continue to build up industries including energy, power and manufacturing with an emphasis on green, sustainable investments.

In way of encouragement, Thaung Tun cited a recently updated Asian Development Bank forecast, which predicts Myanmar’s GDP growth — which plunged to less than 2% this fiscal year — to bounce back to 6% next year. On the other hand, that data was compiled in the early stages of Myanmar’s staggering new wave of COVID-19 infections. It is unclear how large this new outbreak will be and for how long it will continue. Yet Thaung Tun urged readers to not give up hope. “It is clear that we have challenges to meet but in light of our COVID-19 Economic Relief and Recovery Plan, we can expect to weather the storm and build back better.”

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