RANGOON – Khin Yu Waddy Myint is manager at Pyrex Trading and Distribution, a Burmese pharmaceutical company that employs 250 people across the country. Part of her job is to source and import medicines from India and Australia, a task she concedes she doesn’t know enough about.
“It is the first time for me to learn many of these things about how to tender,” she says, taking a break from some business training at the SME Center inside a Ministry of Commerce building in Rangoon, a short walk from where opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest during Burma’s military government.
Now that military rule is a thing of the past, formally at least, and more donor-funded NGO work is being done in a country where Western aid was, until very recently, on ice for the most part as a part of sanctions imposed on the military junta.
And while eyes might roll at the notion of another NGO doing yet more training in a poor country, the group behind the course says that its work is all about boosting local business and creating jobs.
Yuki Kuronuma is Business Development Manager at Building Markets, an NGO that aims to bridge the business-aid divide. She says that “part of what we try to do is link local business and entrepreneurs with international suppliers and business opportunities. In Myanmar the need for this is quite clear, given that the country has been closed to the much of the outside world for so long.”
Burma’s economic prospects are on the rise, now, with the World Bank saying on December 19 that “the Myanmar economy continued to accelerate in fiscal year 2011-12, with GDP growth at 5.5 percent, and expected to reach 6.3 percent in fiscal year 2012-13.”