Elections in Myanmar
A watershed moment is approaching in Myanmar, with historic elections in November 2015 which will end the constitutional rule by the military. Parliament will likely be dominated by opposition parties and a coalition government is expected to be formed. The consequences for business will be substantial, but unpredictable. Will the formidable reform process, started in 2011, continue or will the elections thwart further economic progress?
Senior Director Romain Caillaud spent seven years in Myanmar, where he provided strategic advice to investors entering this booming frontier market. He shares insights into what lies ahead for the country and how one can best avoid pitfalls and harness opportunities there.
The Breadth of Change
Myanmar has changed significantly since general elections were last held in November 2010. Under the leadership of President Thein Sein and his close entourage, what was expected to be a lukewarm transition turned into a top-down Burmese Spring. The state of emergency that had prevailed since the 1988 coup has been replaced by a constitutional order where military officers remain pervasive but are not all-powerful anymore. Most political prisoners have been released, notably Aung San Suu Kyi who sits in parliament following the National League for Democracy (“NLD”) Party’s landslide victory in the 2012 by-elections. Civil liberties have improved while independent and outspoken NGOs and media have flourished, and an unprecedented peace process has led to a lull in decades-old civil wars.
These far-reaching domestic political reforms have been welcomed abroad. They have allowed for Myanmar to leave the ranks of pariah states and become a darling of the international community in a remarkably short span of time. The EU has lifted all sanctions (apart from an arms embargo) and the US has suspended most restrictive measures, though notably keeps in place a list of individuals and entities with which trade and investment are prohibited. International financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have resumed technical support, credit lines and investment. Myanmar has become one of the main recipients worldwide of Japanese development aid.