Publications

    David Dapice, May 2016  

    Kachin has just over 3% of Myanmar’s population but a much larger share of its natural resource wealth, notably in the form of large jade deposits and significant hydropower potential. Research findings indicate that currently most of that wealth is going to private and foreign interests, depriving both Kachin state and the nation of resources they need and should have. The author argues that if Myanmar is to remain united, grow stronger and richer, and attract the states so they wish to belong in the Union, it will be necessary to capture a fair share of this wealth and use it for nation-building purposes, especially in Kachin state. Options for sensible approaches to hydropower, jade revenue sharing, and the state’s development more generally are discussed.

    Over 40 hydropower projects are under consideration in Myanmar. While past hydro investments score poorly on environmental impact mitigation and locally shared economic benefit, this paper argues that the country’s domestic electricity demand cannot be met adequately by other renewable energy sources alone. The paper makes the case that emphasis should be placed on developing a transparent, productive and meaningful review process which embeds mechanisms for balancing national and local interests and for securing appropriate expertise to ensure comprehensive assessments. The issue of weighing domestic need versus export markets is also considered. Click to read the Burmese version
    Dapice, David, and Thomas Vallely. 2013. “Against the Odds: Building a Coalition”. Read the full report Abstract

    Using a New Federalism for Unity and Progress in Myanmar
    David Dapice and Thomas Vallely, March 2013

    When in 2010, the President of the Union of Myanmar, the Speaker of the Lower House and several ministers decided to push for a rapid political opening, they engineered what could be called a critical juncture. This critical juncture now provides the country with an opportunity to move forward, not only with faster economic growth, but also with better quality growth and political change that will unify the nation and create broad progress. In exploring a possible approach toward unity and progress, this paper uses the framework developed in Why Nations Fail, a recent book on economic and political development and also refers to the idea of “illiberal democracy“ articulated by Fareed Zakaria. The basic idea is that a broad coalition of the incumbent party, the democratic opposition, ethnic groups and the military is needed to fundamentally change Myanmar’s past failed orientation. This broad coalition should work for a new federalism in which states (at a minimum) have fairly elected governors and meaningful revenue sources so they can run many of their own affairs. Recognizing that central to real progress is a transition from a repressive, extractive and exclusive political system with crony businesses to a broadly inclusive political system that spreads economic opportunity, the paper argues that broad political and economic change need to go hand in hand.

    David Dapice, September 2012 

    Myanmar, long isolated from western economies due to its government, is one of the poorest and worst governed countries in the world. Ruled for many years by a reclusive dictator, senior general Than Shwe, it was dependent on China for diplomatic protection and arms. Trade and investment deals reflected its lack of alternatives. China’s “One nation, two oceans“ policy and Yunnan’s “Bridgehead“ strategy envisioned Myanmar providing access to the sea via gas and oil pipelines, deep sea ports, naval docking facilities and transport for Yunnan. Yunnan through its Southern Grid along with CPI (China Power International) saw Myanmar’s Kachin state as providing ample hydroelectric supplies for the landlocked Chinese province. Deals were signed under General Than Shwe without popular review or consultation with the Kachin whose state had most of the hydroelectric sites.

    David Dapice, May 2012 

    Electricity is a fundamental input to every modern economy. Electricity consumption per capita in Myanmar is among the lowest in Asia and had been growing very slowly since the 1980s. It gently grew from 45 kWh per capita in 1987 to 99 kWh in 2008, a 3.8 percent annual growth rate. However, since 2008, the production of electricity has jumped very quickly. This 50 percent jump in three years is about 15 percent per year, far higher than in the past. The CSO does not report any increase in installed capacity since 2009/10, so the existing system is being worked much more intensively. This creates problems, such as the risk of sudden outages from failures in generators. Indeed, there has been an increase in blackouts in the Yangon and Mandalay areas in the last year in spite of higher output; and even during the wet season. With increases in tourism, exports and overall economic activity, electricity demand will continue to soar. Even with 2011/12 output, estimated consumption in Myanmar is only about 160 kWh per capita, compared to 2009 consumption of over 250 kWh per capita in Bangladesh and nearly 600 in Indonesia. Vietnam had over 1000 kWh per capita in 2011.

    David Dapice, May 2012 

    There is an immense challenge facing the leadership in Myanmar. They have to negotiate a nation and to reform the basic assumptions and processes that have ruled for the past decades. They need to make the new system more representative, more inclusive, less favorable to a narrow group of businessmen and government or army officials, and more broadly successful. The new system has to give minority groups a reason to want to be part of the new nation. That means not only creating new sources of growth and wealth, but also making rules that ensure the benefits go to many more than the relatively narrow groups who have largely benefitted in the past. The technical adjustments needed in the exchange rate, the financial system, taxing and spending, infrastructure investments, and competition policy will all ultimately be judged on the ability of the policy package to create the conditions for national unity and progress. The government needs to have a vision of this goal and how the pieces fit together. Getting it to work in a shaky world economy with new and still evolving institutions is a huge challenge. But for those who have seen the past clearly for what it was, there can be no doubt that moving forward together is better than going back or staying put.

    Dwight H. Perkins, April 2012 

    Myanmar faces fundamental choices about its economic future when the sanctions are lifted, and many of these choices will be present even if some of the sanctions remain. There is no technical reason why Myanmar cannot achieve a GDP growth rate of 8 percent a year or more for several decades. If the country did achieve a growth rate of that magnitude, the standard of living of its people would double over the next decade and increase four-fold over the next two decades. Poverty would fall dramatically, first in the more developed regions and then nationwide. In the most recent two decades, in contrast, Myanmar's electric power consumption suggests that GDP growth per capita has at best been negligible and may even have been negative.