Myanmar progress inevitable, biggest challenge is poverty, UN Development Chief Says

Jun 6, 2013

Nay Pyi Taw - Ending poverty is Myanmar’s biggest challenge going forward, but the South-east Asian country’s progress is inevitable, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said today.

“It's not a question of whether Myanmar will take off economically, I think it will,” Helen Clark, in Myanmar to co-chair the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia, said. “But we need to ask the question, how do we maximize the benefits for Myanmar’s people out of the emergence of Myanmar as a new country?”

Eradicating extreme poverty and building a peaceful and inclusive Myanmar is the answer, she said. “I think the headline growth will come from the extractive industries, but what we know from experience around that world is that doesn't necessarily translate into poverty reduction.”

She stressed the need for quality growth that reaches all people, identifying agriculture as a sector in which—with targeted investment—Myanmar could have a quick win in bringing people out of poverty.

“Myanmar needs growth in sectors where poor people are living and working, and that is overwhelmingly in agriculture,” she said.  “This sector can benefit from quite basic investment and support for farmers in seeds, fertilizers, advisory services in local infrastructure, and access to credit.”

In addition to co-chairing the WEF, Helen Clark met with Myanmar President U Thein Sein on the government’s reform agenda and on how UNDP’s new programme in Myanmar could support their development priorities.  She also spoke on a CNBC panel titled “Myanmar: The Way Forward.”

Myanmar and UNDP last month signed a three-year Country Programme Action Plan outlining UNDP engagement in the country for 2013-2015. In January, the UNDP Executive Board approval a fully-fledged country programme for Myanmar for the first time in 20 years following 18 months of unprecedented opening and reform.

UNDP’s US$150 million programme aims to strengthen institutions of democratic and local governance, support the environment and disaster risk management, and support government efforts for poverty reduction over the three-year period.

Earlier this week, the Administrator met with heads of UN agencies in Yangon before discussing UNDP support for a gender-sensitive democratic transition in Myanmar with women representatives from civil society, ethnic organizations and academia.

Contact information

Christina LoNigro , Press Secretary and Communications Advisor, Office of the Administrator

Alex Nyi Nyi Aung, Communications Analyst

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