Income and property disparities growing in Myanmar, economists say

MYANMAR - "Speaking about income distribution, we need to consider it along with the property distribution here although income and property are different…Looking at this way, there is very unequal income distribution in Myanmar," said Maung Maung Soe, a retired professor from the Applied Geology department at the Yangon University of Economics.

"A handful of people are extremely wealthy while 99 per cent of the people are very poor. Many don't even have a place to live. Almost all the land is in possession of the extremely wealthy. The problem in Myanmar is not only the income disparity but also the unequal property distribution," he added.

Tin Win Aung, chairperson of the MCC Group of Companies, said that unequal income distribution can give rise to violence and conflicts in a society, preventing political stability.

"People say when the country's economy develops, it can ease income disparity. In economic terms, that is a kind of 'growth only policy', which focuses on growth first and tries to ease the income gap later. In practice, it takes a lot of time," said Tin Win Aung.

The McKinsey Institute estimated a few months ago that Myanmar's gross domestic product (GDP) would grow from US$45 billion (Ks 43.73 trillion) in 2010 to US$200 billion in 2030, given the suitable economic management.

However, the economists said that appropriate government policies and effective implementation of those policies will decide whether or not expected growth can be achieved. They urged the government to address mismanagement in fiscal and monetary policies, and to streamline trade and investment procedures.

"Using fiscal policies, the government can bring about economic growth and well-distributed income. For example, the government can use its income from selling natural gas to improve education and health and to help low-income people," Tin Win Aung said.

"Political parties should speak out about these things. They should not all be waiting for a time when the country's economy develops to solve unequal income distribution. It would be best if the government also showed its commitment."