World Bank Invests in Myanmar’s Financial Inclusion, $100M in Credit

The World Bank established the Financial Sector Development Project to support Myanmar’s SMEs — the latest sign of progress in the country’s economy.  The five-year project includes $100 million in credit, which will be used to allow SMEs increased access to financial services.  The project will focus on the country’s microfinance and insurance sectors.  The step by the multilateral organization adds to the continuance of Myanmar’s economic modernization since its political opening began a few years ago.

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Fintech Ranking reported that Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung Win said;

“The project will help increase access to finance for households and small and medium-sized enterprises by reforming state-owned banks, strengthening the financial sector’s legal and regulatory frameworks and modernizing the financial sector infrastructure. These reforms are expected to extend the range of basic financial products and services to underserved areas and populations.”

ulrich_zachau_world_bankAccording to the World Bank’s Country Director for Southeast Asia Ulrich Zachau;

 

“As Myanmar implements the Financial Sector Development Project, people in communities across the country will gain access to basic financial services and small loans. Improved access to credit will mean higher incomes and more jobs. Farmers, small businesses and low-income households will benefit. The World Bank Group is pleased to help finance the project.”

As Richard Horsey, a political analyst and former United Nations official in Yangon, told The New York Times in September last year;

“A level playing field helps mainly small and medium-sized industries in Myanmar, not the cronies who have thrived under sanctions for years and are geared up to circumvent them.”

Myanmar — a country whose youth aged under 25-years-old makes up over 40 percent of the population — shows much promise in tech participation.  According to Tech in Asia earlier last year;

“Myanmar’s tech scene has erupted so quickly, and with such wild, uncontrollable energy that it hasn’t had the time to make sense of itself. Institutions like startup accelerators, venture capital firms, and even basic internet-centric laws for journalism and expression are still in their early stages.

 

A country unfamiliar with a free press just a few years ago now has a vibrant social sphere online – something that local powerful institutions have sometimes handled with grace, and other times with clumsy heavy-handedness.”

However, in terms of alternative finance and digital innovation, observers will have to wait and see how quickly things move in the country.  ATMs were only first installed in 2012.  Myanmar, known still as Burma to some, is one country where many of the world’s financially excluded people can be found.

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Additionally, the political climate must improve on transparency and rule of law before investors can have more confidence in the country’s market in order to invest more heavily.

Toward the end of 2016, the Obama Administration lifted the last of economic sanctions in the normalized U.S.-Myanmar relationship.

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