Gas exports boost Myanmar’s economy

Bangkok, October 11:

A report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that increased gas exports are boosting economic growth in military-ruled Myanmar, Britain’s Financial Times newspaper reported today.

The newspaper quoted the IMF report as saying that economic growth in Myanmar will be seven per cent in the fiscal year ending April 2007, up from 4.5 to 5.5 per cent in recent years. However the report also found that the country’s longer-term prospects were constrained by high inflation and unpredictable economic policies, the Financial Times reported.

Myanmar is one of the world’s poorest nations and is subject to US and European economic sanctions because of human rights abuses and the ongoing house arrest of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But the impact of the sanctions has been weakened by the eagerness of neighbouring China, India and Thailand to tap Myanmar’s vast natural wealth to fuel their own growing economies.

According to the Financial Times, the IMF report stated that the rise in gas exports to Thailand, which gets about 20 per cent of its natural gas from neighbouring Myanmar, was fueling the growth.

That gas comes mainly from the Yetagun field — operated by Malaysia’s Petronas, Japan’s Nippon Oil and Thailand’s PTTEP — and the Yadana field run by France’s Total, US firm Unocal and PTTEP.

Both fields are in the Andaman Sea. But there was little growth outside the energy sector, the newspaper reported, and continued growth could be threatened by rising inflation, a weak banking sector and unpredictable economic policies, the IMF report added.

Myanmar’s natural wealth includes natural gas and minerals, as well as highly-prized teak which often disappears onto a black market estimated to be at least half the size of the formal economy.