Many people are probably not aware that the military rulers of Burma changed the country’s name to Myanmar in 1989. Myanmar (or Burma as it was then known) came under British control in 1824. This lasted till the country gained independence in 1948. Military rule has been all pervasive in Myanmar for most of its post-1948 history. On April 1, 2012 for the first time in 20 years the military allowed the holding of free elections which resulted in a landslide victory for the party known as the National League for Democracy. The League is led by the charismatic woman politician Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San had defied the military dictatorship which in turn had put her under house arrest for decades. With the military’s decision to allow parliamentary elections Aung San who is a Nobel- laureate for Peace, has been elected to parliament and is expected to be the dominant civilian voice in Myanmar.
According to Jeff Opdyke, a senior financial analyst the opening up of Myanmar is a potential game changer for early investors. Myanmar is one of the world’s most richly endowed countries in terms of natural resources estimated at nearly $1 trillion. It possesses 60% of the world’s teak, 90% of the world’s rubies in addition to other precious stones such as jade, an estimated 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil (equivalent to Australia’s deposits), 90 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and enough fertile land to feed a sizeable proportion of the teeming multitudes in Asia.
Opdyke’s bullish assessment of Myanmar representing a gold mine for investors has been seconded by the world renowned billionaire investor Jim Rogers. In a recent interview Rogers opined:
“Probably the best investment opportunity in the world right now is Myanmar. In 1962 Myanmar was the richest country in Asia. They closed off in 1962 and now it is the poorest country in Asia. I see enormous opportunities there because they’re now opening up. It’s like when China opened up in 1978. There were unbelievable opportunities going forward. The same is true in Myanmar now in my view. North Korea, I expect to see [in the future] the same sorts of developments”.
The well known Asian consultant Hans Vriens says, “It doesn’t happen every day that a country with 60 million people in the most dynamic region in the world is suddenly open for business”. Myanmar is the gateway to two of the fastest growing nations in the world – India and China. Both nations are reportedly rushing to build a direct trade route through Myanmar, as well as tap Myanmar’s wealth of resources for their own needs.
In view of the foregoing, I believe it is worthwhile to consider investing in Myanmar particularly in its oil and gas sectors, as the returns are likely to be substantial.