Economy

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Sina Hardaker—Special Economic Zones

The creation of special economic zones (SEZs) is an economic policy instrument, which has been intensively applied within the framework of structural policy since the 1960s. Becoming increasingly popular, around 4,300 SEZ existed around the world in 2015. Over the last 15 years, mainly emerging and developing countries have established SEZs, with differing success. Scientists agree that despite three decades of research on SEZs, many important questions remain unanswered. There is a lack of systematic analysis of individual SEZs and their success worldwide. Currently, three out of four countries have identified at least one SEZ and, above all, developing and emerging countries are trying to generate foreign investment through newly established SEZs, thus opening up to the global economy, as exemplified by Myanmar. Myanmar’s government decided to establish SEZs, with the hope —of enabling huge growth in FDI, and respectively to foster employment, to create necessary foreign exchange and to stimulate transfer of technology and management expertise.In view of the political and economic liberation of Myanmar and the abolition of many sanctions since 2013, a key element of the reforms is the increased economic development. The efforts to push forward several of these reforms and objectives culminate in the development of three SEZs: Thilawa Port and the SEZ on the outskirts of Yangon, Dawei SEZ near the Thai border, west of Bangkok and Kyaukphyu SEZ near the border with Bangladesh – in collaboration with the respective governments of Japan, Thailand and China. The first, Thilawa SEZ near Yangon, has officially started its operation in 2016. The presentation first presents background information and developments regarding the motives, locations and operator management of the SEZs. Questions about the reasons, potential and possible effects of the SEZ are to be answered. Furthermore, future questions will be presented and discussed.

Laura Hornig—Community-based Support Arrangements – Patterns of Credit and Charity in the Urban Informal Sector

The state social support scheme only covers a tiny percentage of Myanmar’s population. To respond to every day demands and financial emergencies, many people draw on complex informal arrangements on the community level. Such arrangements include mutual help among neighbours, financial inter-household associations (ROSCAs), different credit sources, and (religion based) charity organizations. These seem to be very different things at first, but they must be understood as several “pillars” of a system that provides a basic form of social security: It helps people to make ends meet and reduces vulnerability. In this presentation, I will describe such informal support mechanisms, based on a year of field research in Pathein. Specific questions include: How are such arrangements organized? Who takes part and these support activities, and in what role? How is access managed, who is considered trustworthy, and why? Who remains excluded, and why? In what ways are commercially-oriented players involved? I will show that the different support arrangements do not function in isolation from each other. In fact, they are interlinked in many ways, and often several of these elements are relevant for the same household at the same time. Besides explaining the crucial importance of these arrangements, I will also show what a thin line it is between providing support, and depending on it. These support structures are by no means without limitations, and they carry the risk of less desirable aspects, like indebtedness and stigmatization.

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