Sanctions eased, Myanmar attracts businesses

Burmese cross a busy street with the Sule Pagoda in the background in the downtown area in Yangon, Myanmar. The country formerly known as Burma, long closed to outsiders and subject to sanctions, is a destination for businesses, especially the oil industry.

Jeff Horwich: For American companies, Burma is open for business. The White House yesterday eased sanctions on the country officially known as Myanmar. In fact, foreign investors from many countries are itching to get in there -- especially oil and gas companies.

From the Marketplace sustainability desk, here's Scott Tong.


Scott Tong: Five years ago, on Myanmar's border with China, I met a young Burmese woman who gave massages: 50 cents an hour.

Kin Dwey: Growing up, the only way we could eat and feel full was to eat lots of plain rice. We never ate chicken or fish.

Now, foreign investors are coming -- promising factories and jobs. Global sanctions eased when the new government released prisoners, and allowed trade unions and protests. David Steinberg teaches at Georgetown.

David Steinberg: But I do not think the reforms can stop. There's too much faith in the society for change.

For investors, the prize is resources: oil, gas, jade, teak -- historically controlled by the military junta. The White House still bans U.S. firms from dealing with the military, but Steinberg thinks they'll get their cut.

Steinberg: The military has controlled that country for 50 years.

Most of the centers of power are under military or quasi-military control. This weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits Myanmar, as do U.S. multinationals.

In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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