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Burma Targets 6.4% Economic Growt

Subject: Burma Targets 6.4% Economic   Growth Over Next Year

Dow Jones Business News -- April 3, 1997
                                       Burma Targets 6.4% Economic
                                       Growth Over Next Year

                                       AP-Dow Jones News Service

                                       BANGKOK (AP)--Burma's economic
planners are
                                       aiming for 6.4% growth for the
1997-98 financial
                                       year after reporting growth of 5.8%
in 1996-97.

                                       An article in the state-run newspaper
New Light of
                                       Myanmar estimated that gross domestic
output for
                                       the upcoming year would total 75.1
billion kyats,
                                       worth $12.11 billion at the official
exchange rate
                                       of about 6.2 kyats to the dollar. The
free market
                                       rate, however, is about 160 kyats to
the dollar.

                                       The article, seen in Bangkok
Wednesday, was
                                       published in Tuesday's edition.

                                       Under targets set for the first year
of the
                                       government's Five-Year Short-Term
Plan, the
                                       leading sector, agriculture, is
projected to grow
                                       6.3% to a value of 27.31 billion
kyats ($4.4 billion),
                                       followed by processing and
manufacturing, with a
                                       projected increase of 10.7% to 7.21
billion kyats
                                       ($1.16 billion).

                                       The livestock and fishery sector is
projected to
                                       grow 7.3% to 5.38 billion kyats
($867.3 million),
                                       mining by 31.8% to 1.25 billion kyats
                                       million), and forestry by 2.0% to 771
million kyats
                                       ($124.4 million).

                                       Exports are projected to increase to
5.9 billion
                                       kyats ($951.6 million) from 5.2
billion kyats
                                       ($838.7 million), and imports to 11.2
billion kyats
                                       ($1.81 billion) from 10.8 billion
kyats ($1.74

                                       The article said the Four-Year
Short-Term Plan
                                       covering 1992-93 to 1995-96 was
                                       implemented,' exceeded its original
                                       mainly because of accelerated growth in

                                       According to provisional figures, in
1996-97 the
                                       production sector increased by 6.2%,
the service
                                       sector by 6.3% and the trade sector
by 5.8%, the
                                       newspaper said.

                                       Among Western economists and other
                                       observers, there is a great deal of
puzzlement and
                                       skepticism about the true state of
the Burmese

                                       That is largely because the official
figures fail to
                                       account for the role of the
difference between the
                                       official and free market exchange
rates, but also
                                       because of distrust of the statistics
released by the
                                       country's military government, which
took power
                                       in 1988. The government is shunned by
                                       Western nations for its repressive
rule and allows
                                       no freedom of information.

                                       The military government has staked
much of its
                                       legitimacy on its economic
performance, opening
                                       up the economy after a
quarter-century of socialist
                                       isolationism that reduced Burma to
one of the
                                       world's poorest countries.

                                       A U.S. Embassy report last year
painted a bleak
                                       picture of the economy, with soaring
                                       declining foreign investment, rampant
                                       spending and rising debt and reliance
on illicit
                                       drug profits. Burma is the world's
largest producer
                                       of opium and its derivative, heroin.

                                       The government's failure last year to
make a
                                       scheduled payment to a Japanese
supplier for
                                       crude oil imports led to speculation
that Burma's
                                       foreign exchange reserves were
stretched thin.
                                       The government did not officially
comment on the

                                       While the lot of many people has not
                                       under the military regime, living
standards for
                                       some are better, and a small middle
class has
                                       emerged in Rangoon, the capital.