Agriculture, industries, energy and tourism are the main sectors of the Burma economy. Agriculture, however, is the dominant sector and accounts for almost 60 percent of the GDP. The heavy industries are owned and operated by the state. Agriculture is mostly a private activity, although rice exports are a state monopoly . Recent government initiatives to improve agricultural production failed because drought and flooding diminished in rice production. The cultivation of pulses and beans, however, has increased significantly.
Industrial manufacturing is still undeveloped. Government attempts to privatize some industries have stalled, even though government-owned concerns continue to lose large sums of money. Foreign investments, although encouraged, have failed to generate enough international interest due to sanctions and boycotts protesting the military regime's human rights violations. All told, industry contributed just 11 percent of GDP in 1997.
The energy sector grew considerably during the late 1990s. The exploration and discovery of petroleum and
Following the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1988, there was a sharp decline in the number of foreign tourists visiting the country. Early in the 1990s the government placed great emphasis on tourism development. The government's attempt to turn tourism into a "cash cow" has not materialized, although the number of people visiting Burma has certainly increased in the last several years.
Realizing the difficulties on the road to rapid industrialization, the government of Burma, while not giving up on industrialization, is hoping to make the agricultural sector the centerpiece of its plans for economic revitalization of the country. This sector, however, has seen declining financial returns. Burma is caught in a vicious circle of inflation, deficit financing, unemployment, and poverty. In an age of increasing international interdependence, Burma cannot expect to develop without the cooperation of the international community.