Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All hail the Myanmar development miracle

Although it is the poorest country in Southeast Asia and is often described as one of the most miserable places on earth, Myanmar appears to have made good progress in improving the quality of life for its people, according to the latest UN Human Development Report.

An analysis of the UN stats by The Economist (disclosure: I sometimes contribute to it) shows that the quality of life in Myanmar (measured in terms of health, education and wealth) has improved at a faster rate since 1990 than in other nations such as Indonesia, South Korea, Brazil, Russia and South Africa.

Myanmar also fares better than you might expect in the UN's overall league table of human development, coming in at 138, ahead of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and Ghana (download PDF of full report here).

It is often said by Burma watchers that, unlike almost any other government in the world, the junta have zero interest in improving the quality of life of their own people (see this editorial, for example, by Alison Vicary and Sean Turnell on why the West should retain sanctions).

So what's going on then? Is the UN data merely a statistical outlier?

Firstly, Myanmar has advanced from a pretty low base in 1990 so the improvement needs to be put in that context. Also, there may be question marks over the reliability of the Myanmar data.

Regardless, it's an interesting anomaly. Anyone care to proffer any alternative theories?

Hat-tip to New Mandala for the sanctions piece. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tianyake.


  1. actually i think its not a real report for real burmese inside burma and data are more or less biased.

  2. We are urgently in need of KlDNEY donors for the sum of $500,000.00 USD,(3 CRORE INDIA RUPEES) All donors are to reply via Email only: