Agriculture remains the main sector of the economy and measures are being taken to increase productivity, promote crop diversification, increase agricultural exports and develop agro-based industries.
After years of political isolation, Myanmar became a member of ASEAN in July 1997. The government has tried to attract foreign investment by relaxing its previous tight controls over commercial activity.
However, many potential investors are deterred by the government’s appalling human rights record and the prospect of widespread international opprobrium. Myanmar’s economic future depends largely on political developments.
Under the new economic policy, Myanmar's rich natural and human resources are being utilised and developed not only by the state sector but also by local and foreign investors. Myanmar is also rich in tourist attractions and there is enormous potential for the tourism industry.
The Foreign Investment Policy mainly seeks to promote and expand exports, to exploit natural resources, to acquire high technology and to support capital intensive production and services.
In line with the new economic direction, such laws as the Foreign Investment Law, Central Bank of Myanmar Law, Financial Institutions of Myanmar Law, and Myanmar Tourist Law have been enacted and Chambers of Commerce reactivated.
In February 2003, a major banking crisis hit the country's 20 private banks, shutting them down and disrupting the economy. In July and August 2003, the United States imposed a ban on all Burmese imports and a ban on provision of financial services, hampering Burma's ability to obtain foreign exchange. During January 2004, the largest private banks remained moribund, leaving the private sector with little formal access to credit outside of government contracts.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $74.53 billion (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line: 25% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 4.2% (2004 est.)
Budget: revenues: $7.9 billion
Expenditures: $12.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $5.7 billion (2004 est.)
Agriculture - products: rice, pulses, beans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarcane; hardwood; fish and fish products
Industries: Agricultural processing; knit and woven apparel; wood and wood products; copper, tin, tungsten, iron; construction materials; pharmaceuticals; fertilizer; cement
Exports - commodities: Clothing, gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice
Imports - commodities: Fabric, petroleum products, plastics, machinery, transport equipment, construction materials, crude oil; food products