Union of Burma
Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw
Situated between Indian and Thailand, Burma is a southeast Asian nation. From the borders of India and China in the north, the country extends into the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in the south. The country also shares borders with Laos and Bangladesh. Slightly smaller than the state of Texas, Burma has an area of 678,500 square kilometers (261,969 square miles). Its land borders are 5,876 kilometers (3,651 miles) long and its coastline, home to many excellent natural harbors, is 1,930 kilometers (1,199 miles) long. Burma's capital, Rangoon (also known as Yangon), is in the south. Mandalay, Moulmein, Pegu, Bassein, Taunggyi, Sittwe, and Myanwa are the other most important cities in the country.
The population of Burma, according to July 2000 estimates, was 41,734,853. A high mortality rate caused by AIDS is factored into this estimate; it is estimated that at least 1 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This high mortality rate from AIDS has slowed population growth to a projected rate of growth of 0.64 percent. The country registered a birth rate of 20.61 per 1000 population and a death rate of 12.35 per 1000; consequently, the population of Burma in 2015 is expected to be 45,925,967.
In the past, the government of Burma sought to restrict emigration (people leaving the country) and immigration (people settling there from outside the country). Burmese authorities negotiated with India to reduce the number of people of Indian origin in the country. As a result, Burma repatriated about 100,000 people to India between 1963 and 1965. Thousands of Burmese also fled to neighboring countries to escape military repression and armed conflicts in the ethnic minority areas.
Ethnic diversity is an interesting feature of the Burmese population. Burmans, an ethnic group related to the Tibetans, constitute the majority at 68 percent of the population. Shan (9 percent), Karen (7 percent), Rakhine (4 percent), Chinese (3 percent), Mon (2 percent), Indian (2 percent), and other ethnic groups account for the rest of the population mix. Buddhism is the major religion, with 89 percent of the population; there are minorities of Christians and Muslims. A majority of the people, 65 percent, are between the ages of 15 and 64. Only 5 percent of the population is older than 65, while 30 percent of the population is under 14 years of age. This is in sharp contrast to Japan, west European countries, and the United States where the number of older people in the population is much higher. The density of population is about 65.2 per square kilometer (169 per square mile). With agriculture as the most important occupation, a majority of the people live in the rural areas and only an estimated 27.3 percent (1999) reside in cities.
. Burmese farmers raise a variety of animals including cattle, water buffalo, goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs. Oxen and water buffalo serve as draught animals in agriculture and for rural transportation. The GDP share of the livestock has increased slightly during the past decade. Most of the cattle are raised in the dry zone in the north.
. Burma is rich in forests and woodland. While its neighbors, India, China and Thailand, have already depleted their forests, Burma is still regarded as the "last frontier of biodiversity in Asia." (Biodiversity refers to ecosystems that are rich, varied, and largely unpolluted or tampered with by human development.) Most of the timbers, especially teakwood, consumed in these Asian countries come from Burma, although most of these exports are illegal. In their search for precious foreign exchange, the military junta is engaged in indiscriminate destruction of forests. Deforestation increases erosion and landslides and threatens the lives of many already endangered species in the rain forests.
Burma is the leading supplier of teak in the international market. In addition to hardwoods, Burma also produces large quantities of bamboo in the delta regions and in the areas of heavy rainfall. Elephants and water buffalo play a key role in hauling teak and other hardwoods.
. Burma is blessed with some of the world's most bountiful fishing grounds that extend from the Bay of Bengal to the Gulf of Martaban. Fish, often dried and salted, is part of Burmese cooking and is the most important source of protein in the diet. The government took many steps to encourage deep-sea fishing although the people prefer fresh-water fish. There has been a steady increase in the catch since the 1980s. Since 1989, Thai companies have been given permission to fish in the Burma waters. They use a modernized trawler fleet to harvest fish. The government also encourages fresh-water fish farms with a view to increasing fish production. Moreover, the Tenasserim area is home to some of world's finest pearls. As a result, the export value of fish and fish products alone has gone up from 159.4 million kyats in 1995-1996 to 227.8 million in 1996-97.
. Although their GDP contribution is not very significant, mineral products are important in earning foreign exchange. Burma has large amounts of mineral deposits. They include tin, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, silver, gold, iron and antimony. Coal, natural gas, and crude oil are also extracted. Jade, rubies, sapphires, and gold are also found in Burma. Should the country ever open to foreign investment there may be significant opportunities for development in this sector.
. Burma's petroleum industry dates back to pre-independence days. During 1963-1964, the government took complete control of petroleum exploration, extraction, and purification. Petroleum is found in the Irrawaddy basin, the delta region, and at offshore sites. Burma is self-sufficient in oil.
The discovery of natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Martaban added to Burma's energy reserve. In 1986 the country produced 32,600 million cubic feet of natural gas. Burma also has large deposits of natural gas in the Andaman off-shore fields. In its efforts to facilitate the growth of its energy sector, the government built the Yadana natural gas pipeline, connecting natural gas stores off the Andaman Islands and Thailand, with the help of Unocal and Total, 2 international petroleum companies. According to government estimates, the energy sector grew approximately 88 percent in 1998. Government projections showed a 77 percent growth for the year 1999.
With just 30 percent of GDP and 25 percent of the workforce, the services sector is not a dominant part of the economy as it often is in developed countries.
Like the cash-strapped countries of Jamaica and Cuba, Burma is also actively promoting itself as an island paradise to increase tourism. Both the government and private enterprises are heavily engaged in the tourism industry. In order to attract tourists, the country has improved roads, built international standard hotels, and other facilities. In 1988, roughly 40,000 foreigners visited the country, although following the suppression of the democracy movement that same year, tourism decreased. Between 1993 and 1996, tourism once again revived. The government proclaimed 1996 as "Visit Burma Year" and hoped to attract 500,000 tourists. However, only 180,000 people showed up. In the 1997-98 fiscal year 191,000 tourists visited the country. Both the government and the private sector, having invested heavily in new tourist facilities, were disappointed.
Nevertheless, Burma—the land of Buddhist pagodas—has great tourism potential. Rangoon, Mandalay, Pagan, Pegu, and Tawnggys, with their palaces and shrines and pagodas, are the centers of tourism. However, the tense political situation, human rights violations, and boycotts by the international community have deterred many people from visiting. Tourism, so far, makes up only a small percentage of the GDP.
During the post-independence days, most financial institutions were private. In 1964, the military junta nationalized all of the country's 24 banks. In their place, the government created 4 state banks. In 1990, the financial sector was revamped under the provisions of the Central Bank of Myanmar Law. Since then the financial institutions are the Central Bank of Myanmar, the Myanmar Agricultural and Rural Development Bank, the Myanma Economic Bank, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, the Myanma Industrial and Commercial Bank, the Myanma Small Loans Enterprise, and Myanmar Insurance. The 1990 law also allowed for both private and foreign banks. As a result, by February 1996, 16 private banks were formed, most of them in Rangoon. During the same period, more than 20 foreign banks opened branches or offices in Myanmar.
The banking sector is still underdeveloped. The people have yet to maintain regular banking habits. The inflation rate is so high that the real rate of interest does not encourage deposits. But without deposits, banks cannot provide credit. In contrast, during the 1970s, when the interest rate was raised, people deposited more money in the banks.
The Burma Securities Exchange was founded in 1996 as a joint venture between Japan's Daiwa Institute of Research and Myanma Economic Bank. The financial sector contributes only a small percentage of the GDP.
Burma (Myanmar) has no territories or colonies.
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Kyat (Kt). One kyat is equal to 100 pyas. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 pyas and 1 kyat, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 90, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 kyat.
Pulses and beans, prawns, fish, rice, teak, and opiates.
Machinery, transport equipment, construction materials, and food products.
US$59.4 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
Exports: US$1.2 billion (1998). Imports: US$2.5 billion (1998).