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What are the low hanging fruit in Myanmar?

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was in Bangkok for the World Economic Forum. One of the questions she was asked was “what sectors she would look to promote first?”

The summary of her answer was that the telecom sector is important as the need to have mobile phone for development is real and will look to support advancement in this field. She wants to target what she calls “low-hanging fruits” sectors to create jobs and bring Burmese migrant workers home.

There is no doubt that telecom, especially voice and data communication over wireless platforms, is a low hanging fruit. When the people of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, were asked in 2003-04 what benefits they saw from the ceasefire agreement of 2002 they answered A9 (the road to the South that was opened up) and telecom. Networks can be rolled out very quickly, given the right policy framework and adequate investments. Once the platform is in place, all sorts of other not-so-low-hanging fruits such as mobile payments will be within reach.

I was intrigued by Daw Aung San’s reference to job creation. For job creation it will be necessary to focus on the ICT sector (software, BPO, KPO, etc.). A precondition is a liberalized international gateway. Disturbingly, there are reports that certain international organizations are supporting draft legislation that includes provisions for perpetuating the international monopoly. With advice like this, Myanmar will see even low-hanging fruit difficult to pluck.

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