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‘Korea's tech transfers key to Myanmar's reforms’

YANGON, Myanmar -- With Myanmar spurring political, economic and administrative reforms, technological assistance coupled with financial aid from Korea and other industrial powerhouses will help expedite the country’s ongoing transformation, according to a senior official at Myanmar’s ruling party.

Hantha Myint, chief of the economic committee within the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, stressed the significance of technology transfers in the Southeast Asian nation’s agriculture-centered economy, pointing to Korea’s development experiences.

“I think the most important thing for our country is not only capital but the infusion of technology -- important, new technology -- in the agriculture sector,” he said in an interview with visiting Korean reporters in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon on June 6.

“Korea and Japan, which do have very developed agricultural economies, have, compared to the population, small lands like us, but you have developed into very high productivity. So I think that this sort of technology is much more important than a borrowing of capital.”
Hantha Myint /KOICA
Hantha Myint /KOICA
Since ending half a century of military rule in 2011 and the ensuing lifting of international sanctions, Myanmar has been basking in an influx of economic assistance, investment and high-profile visits from around the world.

The committee was launched in 2013 to provide advice, such as on tackling poverty, fostering agricultural productivity and other economic issues.

Having clinched a landslide victory in the general elections last November, the party is now striving to improve human rights situations and curb long-festering internal ethnic feuds by better embracing ethnic minorities and enhancing their living conditions, Myint said.

“The reduction of poverty in remote areas, including minority enclaves, is critical to nationwide development, while nurturing democracy is another priority for the country and our party,” he noted.

Acknowledging lingering concerns about clandestine arms trade and nuclear cooperation with North Korea, Myint said the relationship had subsided due to such “suspicions,” though Myanmar would remain “neutral” in the two Koreas’ issues.

Myanmar had been a strategically vital partner for Pyongyang since the two countries forged diplomatic relations in 1975.

The country severed the relationship following a 1983 terrorist bombing in Yangon, the then capital, by North Korean operatives that killed 17 visiting Seoul officials. Their ties were restored in 2007.

Aung Ko Ko, an NLD economist and aide to Myint, singled out poverty reductions, fiscal decentralization and productivity raise as some of the pressing economic challenges at hand.

After taking control, the NLD government has made six reform plans on fiscal prudence, administrative reform, agriculture revitalization, monetary policy stability, infrastructure building and the environment.

“We aim to raise our nation’s economic efficiency,” he said, highlighting the need to scale back the government size and cut red tape, bribery and corruption.

“This is also very important for the market-oriented economy. ... You can compare with South Korean economy and North Korean economy -- because South Korea became a rich country and North Korea did not. It is a difference between a market-oriented economy and a state-controlled economy, and at the same time, in the political and economic systems. It is also mutually related.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com) 

Korea Herald Correspondent
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