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Various ethnic Burmese and ethnic minority city-states or kingdoms occupied the present borders through the 19th century. Over a period of 62 years (1824-1886), Britain conquered Burma and incorporated the country into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; in 1948, Burma attained independence from the Commonwealth. Gen. NE WIN dominated the government from 1962 to 1988, first as military ruler, then as self-appointed president, and later as political kingpin. In September 1988, the military deposed NE WIN and established a new ruling junta. Multiparty legislative elections in 1990 resulted in the main opposition party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) - winning a landslide victory. Instead of handing over power, the junta placed NLD leader (and Nobel Peace Prize recipient) AUNG SAN SUU KYI (ASSK) under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, 2000 to 2002, and from May 2003 to November 2010. In late September 2007, the ruling junta brutally suppressed protests over increased fuel prices led by prodemocracy activists and Buddhist monks, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations. In early May 2008, Burma was struck by Cyclone Nargis, which left over 138,000 dead and tens of thousands injured and homeless. Despite this tragedy, the junta proceeded with its May constitutional referendum, the first vote in Burma since 1990. Parliamentary elections held in November 2010, considered flawed by many in the international community, saw the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party garnering over 75% of the seats. Parliament convened in January 2011 and selected former Prime Minister THEIN SEIN as president. Although the vast majority of national-level appointees named by THEIN SEIN are former or current military officers, the government has initiated a series of political and economic reforms leading to a substantial opening of the long-isolated country. These reforms have included a senior-level dialogue with ASSK, re-registering the NLD as a political party, enabling party members, including ASSK, to contest parliamentary by-elections on 1 April 2012, the release of many (but not all) political prisoners, preliminary peace agreements with some armed ethnic groups, a reduction in media censorship, and an increasingly open debate in the Parliament.


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Economy - overview
Burma, a resource-rich country, suffers from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, corruption, and rural poverty. Despite Burma's emergence as a natural gas exporter, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated under the mismanagement of the previous regime. Approximately 32% of the population lives in poverty and Burma is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. The business climate is widely perceived as opaque, corrupt, and highly inefficient. Wealth from country's ample natural resources is concentrated in the hands of an elite group of military leaders and business associates. In 2010-11, the transfer of state assets - especially real estate - to military families under the guise of a privatization policy further widened the gap between the economic elite and the public. The economy suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat, fiscal deficits, lack of commercial credit further distorted by a non-market interest rate regime, unpredictable inflation, unreliable economic data, and an inability to reconcile national accounts. Burma's poor investment climate - including weak rule of law - hampers the inflow of foreign investment; in recent years, foreign investors have shied away from nearly every sector except for natural gas, power generation, timber, and mining. The exploitation of natural resources does not benefit the population at large. The most productive sectors will continue to be in extractive industries - especially oil and gas, mining, and timber - with the latter two causing significant environmental degradation. Other areas, such as manufacturing, tourism, and services, struggle in the face of poor infrastructure, unpredictable trade policies, undeveloped human resources (the result of neglected health and education systems), endemic corruption, and inadequate access to capital for investment. Private banks still operate under tight domestic and international restrictions, limiting the private sector's access to credit. The United States, the European Union, and Canada have imposed financial and economic sanctions on Burma. US sanctions, prohibiting most financial transactions with Burmese entities, impose travel bans on senior Burmese military and civilian leaders and others connected to the ruling regime, and ban imports of Burmese products. These sanctions affect the country's fledgling garment industry, isolate the struggling banking sector, and raise the costs of doing business with Burmese companies, particularly firms tied to Burmese regime leaders. Remittances from overseas Burmese workers - who had provided significant financial support for their families - have driven the Ministry of Finance to license domestic banks to carry out overseas operations. In 2011 the government took initial steps toward reforming and opening up the economy by lowering export taxes, easing restrictions on its financial sector, and reaching out to international organizations for assistance. Although the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, significant improvements in economic governance, the business climate, and the political situation are needed to promote serious foreign investment.

Gdp (purchasing power parity) World Ranking: 77
$83.74 billion (2011 est.)
$79.4 billion (2010 est.)
$75.38 billion (2009 est.)
Note Data are in 2011 US dollars

Gdp (official exchange rate)
$51.93 billion (2011 est.)

Gdp - real growth rate World Ranking: 59
5.5% (2011 est.)
5.3% (2010 est.)
5.1% (2009 est.)

Gdp - per capita (ppp) World Ranking: 206
$1,300 (2011 est.)
$1,300 (2010 est.)
$1,300 (2009 est.)
Note Data are in 2011 US dollars

Gdp - composition by sector
Agriculture 38.2%
Industry 18.2%
Services 43.6% (2011 est.)

Labor force World Ranking: 19
32.53 million (2011 est.)

Labor force - by occupation
Agriculture 70%
Industry 7%
Services 23% (2001 est.)

Unemployment rate World Ranking: 54
5.5% (2011 est.)
5.7% (2010 est.)

Population below poverty line
32.7% (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share
Lowest 10% 2.8%
Highest 10% 32.4% (1998)

Investment (gross fixed) World Ranking: 132
15.7% of GDP (2011 est.)

Revenues $2.016 billion
Expenditures $4.272 billion (2011 est.)

Taxes and other revenues World Ranking: 213
3.9% of GDP (2011 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) World Ranking: 140
-4.3% of GDP (2011 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices) World Ranking: 135
5.2% (2011 est.)
7.7% (2010 est.)

Central bank discount rate World Ranking: 17
9.95% (31 December 2010 est.)
12% (31 December 2009 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate World Ranking: 31
16.33% (31 December 2011 est.)
17% (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of narrow money World Ranking: 82
$8.531 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$6.533 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
This number reflects the vastly overvalued official exchange rate of 5.38 kyat per dollar in 2007; at the unofficial black market rate of 1,305 kyat per dollar for 2007, the stock of kyats would equal only US$2.465 billion and Burma's velocity of money (the number of times money turns over in the course of a year) would be six, in line with the velocity of money for other countries in the region; in January-February 2011, the unofficial black market rate averaged 890 kyat per dollar.

Stock of broad money World Ranking: 10
$2.178 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$10.89 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of domestic credit World Ranking: 89
$15.66 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$11.83 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

Agriculture - products
Rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane; fish and fish products; hardwood

Agricultural processing; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; cement, construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; oil and natural gas; garments, jade and gems

Industrial production growth rate World Ranking: 76
4.3% (2010 est.)

Electricity - production World Ranking: 107
6.426 billion kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - consumption World Ranking: 117
4.63 billion kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - exports
0 kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - imports
0 kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - production World Ranking: 76
21,120 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - consumption World Ranking: 107
37,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - exports World Ranking: 141
0 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - imports World Ranking: 112
19,700 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - proved reserves World Ranking: 79
50 million bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural gas - production World Ranking: 39
11.54 billion cu m (2009 est.)

Natural gas - consumption World Ranking: 68
3.25 billion cu m (2009 est.)

Natural gas - exports World Ranking: 23
8.29 billion cu m (2009 est.)

Natural gas - imports World Ranking: 164
0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves World Ranking: 40
283.2 billion cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current account balance World Ranking: 54
$111 million (2011 est.)
$1.527 billion (2010 est.)

Exports World Ranking: 101
$8.206 billion (2011 est.)
$7.831 billion (2010 est.)
Official export figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of timber, gems, narcotics, rice, and other products smuggled to Thailand, China, and Bangladesh

Exports - commodities
Natural gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice, clothing, jade and gems

Exports - partners
Thailand 37.1%, China 19%, India 12.3%, Japan 6.7% (2011)

Imports World Ranking: 122
$5.982 billion (2011 est.)
$4.376 billion (2010 est.)
Import figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of consumer goods, diesel fuel, and other products smuggled in from Thailand, China, Malaysia, and India

Imports - commodities
Fabric, petroleum products, fertilizer, plastics, machinery, transport equipment; cement, construction materials, crude oil; food products, edible oil

Imports - partners
China 39.2%, Thailand 22.9%, Singapore 9.8%, South Korea 5.4%, Japan 4.1% (2011)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold World Ranking: 98
$3.931 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$3.763 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Debt - external World Ranking: 109
$5.811 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$6.352 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Exchange rates
Kyats (MMK) per US dollar -
5.39 (2011 est.)
5.58 (2010 est.)
1,055 (2009)
1,205 (2008)
1,296 (2007)

Fiscal year
1 April - 31 March


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