New opportunities for development
In response to recent political, economic and social changes in Myanmar, the Swiss Federal Council has decided to open an embassy in Myanmar. The current humanitarian aid programme is to be strengthened with a development programme to support the transition towards democracy, consolidate peace and reduce poverty. Funding will gradually increase to CHF 25 million per year.
Justifiable and necessary aid
Myanmar has 60 million inhabitants. With a GDP of USD 1,300 per person, it is in a similar position to that of Nepal and Rwanda. The Human Development Index ranks it 132nd (out of 169 countries) behind all its neighbours (Bangladesh 129th, Cambodia 124th and Thailand 92nd), and a quarter of the population is living below the poverty line. Although the country is potentially rich (in gas, precious stones and timber), it is still under-exploited and only a small class of elite linked to the old junta is benefiting from these resources. The sanctions against Myanmar have meant that the level of development aid there is by far the lowest of any of the least developed countries. At USD 7 per person, it lies well behind that of other countries with repressive regimes such as Zimbabwe (USD 59) and Laos (USD 69). The rapid changes that have taken place over recent months in Myanmar provide unprecedented opportunities for Switzerland. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) can help to restore peace by providing concrete benefits to vulnerable sectors of the population and also help to support the opening up and democratisation of the country. The development, political and peace components complement each other, and Switzerland wishes to make a significant contribution in line with the needs of the local populations.