Yangon: Myanmar’s military government has privatized more than 200 state-owned enterprises since the junta began opening up the economy a decade ago, a senior official said on 6 April.
“Altogether 215 state-owned enterprises, of the 288 proposed by 10 ministries, were privatized,” a senior official of the national planning ministry told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Another 65 enterprises are set to be sold and new proposals are still coming to the privatization commission, he added.
“All the state firms were sold to Myanmar nationals. Under our policy, we will not sell to foreigners. The government wants the local private sector to benefit. That is why we privatized the enterprises.”
Of those already sold, 124 belonged to the information ministry while another 25 firms had been owned by the commerce ministry, the official added.
Official media also reported that six state-owned rice mills in the Sagaing Division of central Myanmar would be privatized.
According to official figures, nearly 80,600 factories were operating around the country in 2005. When Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, became independent in 1948, it had one of the most promising economies in southeast Asia.
Decades of mismanagement under former dictator Ne Win drove the economy into the ground as he pursued a so-called “Burmese Way to Socialism” that included extreme isolationism that severed almost all contact with the outside world.
When the current junta took power after crushing a pro-democracy uprising in 1988, they began moving ever so slowly to open up the economy to private and foreign investment.
Last year, official statistics said that Myanmar had a $1.4bn(Rs6,300 crore) trade surplus, with exports at $3.5bn (Rs15,750 crore) and imports at almost $2bn (Rs9,000 crore).
The ministry put inflation last year at 10.7%, up from 3.8% the year before. However, official statistics from Myanmar are notoriously unreliable and do not take into account the nation’s vast black market, which outside economists estimate is at least half the size of the formal economy. Foreign economists also estimate that inflation is three times as high as official figures indicate.