MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Dr Hans Dieter Seibel Calls for Liberalisation of Myanmar’s (Burma’s) Financial Sector; UK’s Department for International Development Commits $15m to Support Rural Microfinance

In an interview with the Myanmar Times newspaper, rural microfinance specialist Dr Hans Dieter Seibel discussed his views on Myanmar’s (Burma’s) financial sector and calls for a liberalized regulatory framework. He reportedly said that the sector is functioning “way below its potential” and that it is being “held back by the government, by legislation.” Dr Seibel noted the government’s push for microfinance as a tool for poverty reduction, but also pointed out the challenge of achieving political will to reform institutions and strengthen the central bank, private banks, government banks and microfinance institutions.

In other news, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) has committed GBP 10 million (USD 15 million) to Myanmar (Burma) over the next four years to support microfinance initiatives in the country’s rural regions. The funds will be channelled through Livelihoods and Food Security Trust (LIFT), a Yangon-based multi-donor trust fund supporting poor people [2].

Paul Whittingham, head of the DFID office in Myanmar, has reportedly said, “One of main obstacles to growth in rural areas [in Burma] is the lack of credit….There has been a lot of attention focused on this issue…There is also consensus among Burmese, including Aung San Suu Kyi and the government, that this is an area where quick investment can have a quick impact.” [3] Mr Wittingham was also quoted as having said, “With more affordable credit and savings services – which our microfinance support is starting to provide – the economic activities of rural people, including farming and fishing, would be more profitable. People would have more money to improve their farms, buy better food, send their children to school and get health care when they are sick. At the moment, many people are unable to afford these things, which keeps people in poverty and puts a drag on the country’s economic growth.” [2]

By Kristha Abores, Research Associate

Sources and Additional Resources:

[1] Myanmar Times: “Banking on financial sector reform,” http://www.mmtimes.com/2012/news/609/news60915.html

[2] Myanmar Times: “UK to up support for credit program,” http://www.mmtimes.com/2012/news/610/news61012.html

[3] Democratic Voice of Burma: “UK says microfinance key to Burma’s growth,” http://www.dvb.no/news/uk-says-microfinance-key-to-burma%E2%80%99s-growt…

MicroCapital.org article, November 17, 2011, “MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Myanmar (Burma) to Spend $333k to Establish Microfinance Programs in Rural Townships,” http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-myanmar-burma-to-spend-33…

MicroCapital.org article, August 16, 2011, “MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Economists Question Myanmar’s (Burma’s) Microfinance Plan Due to Corruption, Macroeconomic Instability,” http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-economists-question-myanm…

MicroCapital.org article, July 1, 2011, “MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Myanmar Plans Microfinance Expansion in Rural Communities,”http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-myanmar-plans-microfinanc…

MicroCapital.org article, May 31, 2011, “MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Myanmar’s (Burma’s) Banned Opposition Party, National League for Democracy (NLD) to Launch Microfinance Program,” http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-myanmar%E2%80%99s-burma-banned-opposition-party-national-league-for-democracy-nld-to-launch-microfinance-program/

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