Our analysis suggests that agriculture, manufacturing, energy and mining, and infrastructure, which together account for almost 85 percent of the total economic opportunity, will be major drivers of growth:
Agriculture. Myanmar has a total of 12.25 million hectares of arable land and permanent crops, the 25th-largest endowment in the world despite the fact that Myanmar is only the 38th-largest country by total area. Although the country’s endowment of water and fertile land is abundant, productivity in Myanmar’s agriculture sector is low with output per worker of only around $1,300 a year, compared with around $2,500 per worker in Thailand and Indonesia. The sector’s low productivity and the low level of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, water, and machinery suggest that there is significant room to grow. There is also large scope to increase the share of fruits, vegetables, coffee, oil palm, rubber, and other high-value crops as well as the production of fisheries. Given that agriculture currently accounts for 52 percent of workforce employment, capturing the full growth potential of agriculture is critical to ensuring that the economy’s growth is shared widely.
Energy and mining. Myanmar has large endowments of oil, gas—its most important export—and precious minerals such as rubies, sapphires, and jade. For example, Myanmar currently ranks 46th in the world in terms of proven gas reserves, and estimates of undiscovered gas reserves indicate that the amount of reserves is likely to be much higher. Myanmar produces 90 percent of the world’s jade, which is valued highly in Asia. Many of these natural resource reserves are largely unexplored today—with new technologies, the potential could be much higher than current estimates.
Manufacturing. Myanmar’s labour costs today are comparatively low, giving the country an opportunity to boost output in labour-intensive manufacturing sectors such as textiles, apparel, leather, furniture, and toys at a time when some of this manufacturing is leaving China. However, labour productivity in the sector is also weak. Output per worker is only 70 percent of that in Vietnam in 2010, 20 percent of that in China and Thailand, and less than 15 percent of that in Malaysia. To compete in the region, Myanmar will need to improve labour productivity. On the back of that higher productivity, there is scope over time to make the transition to more value-added sectors, following the example of Thailand, Malaysia, and other Asian economies.
Infrastructure. Myanmar’s infrastructure is not sufficient today to support the higher growth and future demand driven by developing industrial sectors and an urbanising population. Between 2010 and 2030, our analysis suggests that Myanmar will need to invest $320 billion in its infrastructure if the economy is to achieve growth of 8 percent a year. The majority of infrastructure investment—60 percent—will need to be in residential and commercial real estate, but there is also a huge need for power plants, water-treatment plants, and road and rail networks.
TOURISM Myanmar’s rich cultural heritage and natural attractions are significant strengths and suggest considerable potential in tourism, especially considering the growth of the consuming class in Asia. We estimate that Asian tourists could make 525 million trips within the region by 2030. Of this number, 200 million trips could originate from China alone. If Myanmar is to capture even a fraction of this market, it will need to invest massively in tourism infrastructure and attract investment for the sector.