YANGON: International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged Myanmar —which is enjoying an economic boom after decades of international isolation under the junta — to urgently prioritise tackling widespread poverty.
“As Myanmar opens up and expands, it needs the structural foundations of a modern economy. This is an urgent priority,” she said in a speech to students at the Yangon Institute of Economics.
Lagarde was in Yangon yesterday on her first official trip to the country formerly known as Burma. She met with a range of government officials and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Three-quarters of the population have no access to electricity... only one percent of the population uses the Internet,” she said.
High annual growth rates and a large, untapped domestic market, have triggered a surge of interest from foreign investors, but Lagarde pointed out that 26 percent of the country’s population still lives below the poverty line.
“The next step is to build on these gains and take the path of sustained, strong, and inclusive growth to lower poverty and lift the prospects of everyone in Myanmar,” she said.
“Clearly, too many people are not yet equipped for the economy of tomorrow,” she added.
She highlighted the importance of agriculture to the country’s economy, pointing out it accounted for over a third of GDP.