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Myanmar: how to achieve socially inclusive growth

NAY PYI TAW, MYANMAR - In September I attended the Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR) in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The Forum was an excellent opportunity for Grow Asia to meet potential partners, hear about the types of projects companies are engaged in across the region, and better understand how organizations are approaching CSR. What was really interesting about the event was the strong turnout from local Myanmar companies and their focus on inclusive and sustainable growth.

Basis for success

Myanmar is at a key juncture in its history and has a unique opportunity for rapid but responsible development. This will be enabled by a young and engaged population with ever increasing access to innovative new technologies. The recent lifting of US sanctions will also help to alleviate concerns from foreign investors.

Discussion at the AFCSR focused heavily on the need for foreign investment to boost development in the country and to kick-start the streamlining of existing, and reportedly tedious, policy frameworks. The benefits of greater Foreign Direct Investment in Myanmar are twofold: firstly, the additional capital injection will expedite growth and, secondly, it enables knowledge exchange and skills transfer to the Myanmar workforce, businesses and public sector processes.

If Myanmar is to grow rapidly but responsibly, it needs to develop its own model for growth and not simply repeat how things have been done in the past. In the eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, people are looking to technological innovations as the enabler of rapid, scalable and inclusive growth. Myanmar is characterized by its rapid penetration of mobile technology and the potential opportunities that this appetite for tech presents. As information becomes more widely accessible, it is believed that those at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ will begin to solve their own challenges and become less reliant on traditional sources of aid. This shift is suggesting that, in the future, government’s role in development should involve leading less and facilitating more, a concept proposed separately by the recent World Bank report on Vietnamese Agriculture.

Platform for engagement

Both the private and public sectors are beginning to understand that social inclusion cannot be achieved in isolation and are increasingly looking to partnership to meet development targets. However, in Myanmar, the current regulatory framework is not always conducive to collaboration and there is a recognized lack of trust between the public and private sectors. Trust cannot be attained without dialogue; this is where Grow Asia can contribute. By acting as a neutral platform on which partnerships can be built, Grow Asia enables business, government, NGO, farmers, and other stakeholders to convene and collaborate on value chain projects. Then through its networks and experience, Grow Asia lends additional support to the value chain projects that are created through these partnerships.

At the AFCSR, the increasing access to knowledge and technology were seen as powerful tools to support social inclusion and sustainable business growth in the region. Yet these benefits can only be fully realized when an enabling environment exists. A clear message that emerged from the event, and was asserted by Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning & Finance, is that multi-stakeholder partnerships are essential to social inclusive growth.

Read more here on the Myanmar Agriculture Network, one of the five Country Partnerships Grow Asia currently supports. The network serves to accelerate partnership opportunities and investment in food security, along with environmentally sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth in Myanmar. Are you a Grow Asia partner based in Myanmar? Join the Grow Asia Exchange to share information and resources and learn more about our work in Myanmar.

Jonathan Parry Manager, Country Partnerships (Mekong), Grow Asia

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