After giving the Myanmar military to civilian rule in 2010, foreign investors rushed to establish factories and raze old neighborhoods to build luxury developments. Five years later, the country has only a precarious foothold in the global economy.
The government has eased restrictions on the media and political dissent. Many people have access to the Internet and mobile phones before. New hotels and shopping centers stand out like beacons among colonial buildings in ruins and crumbling apartments of the socialist era of Yangon, the largest city.
Elections this month will provide the United States and other nations have eased sanctions key if the generals in Myanmar are giving power as evidence promised. The failure of the Union Solidarity and Development, allied with former military rulers of the country, can point to an economic growth of over 8.5 percent, and foreign direct investment more than $ 8 billion this year, as evidence of his reforms are making progress.
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But more than a third of the 51.4 million people of Myanmar are still living on less than $ 1.25 a day. Their reality is rural poverty or urban neighborhoods dominated by gangs, factories pay workers just enough to survive, and an almost total absence of public services.
The reaction of employers to September hike in the minimum wage of 3,600 Myanmar kyat ($ 2.80) a day highlighted the limited benefits for workers on the road to industrialization.
Some international clothing companies supported the minimum wage law, hoping that would help to ensure better remuneration for their local subcontractors. Instead, many garment enterprises in the industrial zone near Yangon Hlaing Thayar cut hours, benefits and bonuses.
“We were excited and thought that the minimum wage would make things better, but actually made things worse,” said the 17-year-old Thae Ei Kyaw, who followed the example of his sister to leave school to work in a clothing factory.
While the garment workers complain Hlaing Thayar wage cuts, factory owners complain that higher wages are too onerous.
After decades of isolation and underdevelopment under military rule, Myanmar factories are facing high costs for transport and electricity, relying on expensive diesel generators because of power outages constant. The lack of even basic industries means clothing manufacturers to import everything that used to make yarn garments, fabrics, zippers, buttons.
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“I am deeply inefficient, and this is compounded by the lack of infrastructure,” said Bowman.
Myanmar needs of millions of jobs to grow its economy and to absorb the legions of migrant workers, many of whom are displaced by natural disasters and expropriation or flee their villages to escape debt collectors or ethnic conflicts.