The 2020-2021 fiscal year is off to a poor start, with rising poverty rates and growth estimated to be under 2%, according to the World Bank’s “Myanmar Economic Monitor.” Likewise, the poverty rate could reach 27% this fiscal year (contrasted with 24.5% in FY 2018-2019) and will likely not return to pre-pandemic levels until FY 2021-2022 at the earliest. Worse yet, the report says that local lockdowns and a dampened global marketplace will likely keep Myanmar’s economy from picking up until March at the earliest. After that, growth could rise to as high as 7%, the report says.
“Myanmar needs to act fast in implementing its COVID-19 response plans to support the economy and mitigate increases in poverty,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director for Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “In the short term, the Government should focus on measures that slow the spread of the virus, provide relief and food security to the poor and most vulnerable, and support economic activity. Over the longer term, public investments in infrastructure and digital technologies can increase domestic demand and employment, while boosting the productive capacity of the economy.”
The government has at least attempted to follow these strategies with its wide-ranging COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan, for which it has spent at least USD 2.5 billion, and most of that financed via low-interest international development loans. Yet the economic damage of COVID-19 has surpassed even the most pessimistic of predictions. The recently-released report acknowledges that despite the possibility of renewed growth, nothing is certain in COVID-19 Myanmar.