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Myanmar: Risk of overloading government machinery

In the larger scheme of things, telecom reforms are easy. But they involve technical expertise and are likely to result in terrible errors like Timor Leste’s multi-decade monopoly, Thailand’s concession contracts, Bangladesh’s fixed licenses, and so on, as we pointed out. The Reuters report provides a good overview of the challenges facing reformers in Myanmar.

As Myanmar opens up after almost 50 years of army rule, and foreign investors descend on the resource-rich country of 60 million, its long-isolated institutions are struggling to keep up, raising the risk of a policy misstep that could wreck stability in this nascent democracy.

The pace of change, already frenetic, looks set to accelerate after President Thein Sein announced on June 19 a second phase of reforms. The goal: tripling the size of the economy in five years and modernising a backward state where 30 percent of the population live under the poverty line and three-quarters get by with no electricity.

A Reuters examination of the policymaking apparatus of the hitherto secretive government reveals how difficult that will be. Inexperienced and thinly staffed ministries are grappling with growing workloads and hastily training themselves in the ways of a world that Myanmar shunned for nearly half a century.

The former military junta isn’t dragging its feet on economic reform. In fact, it is pushing ahead so fast that foreign advisers here on the ground say it risks overloading its rickety institutions.

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