Coup and Covid: Recipe for disaster in Myanmar as poverty surges

As much as half of Myanmar’s population of a total of nearly 55 million could be living in poverty next year as a result of the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the political and economic crisis sparked by the military coup, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says in a report published on April 30.

This could erase all the progress that has been made in poverty alleviation since the beginning of the millennium when the poverty rate as per the country’s national poverty line was at around 45 per cent. Since, it has been brought down close to 20 per cent during the nation’s short time window of political and economic opening, according to World Bank figures.

The study warns that the combined effect of the two crises could push up to 12 million people back into poverty. That could result in as much as 25 million people living below the national poverty line by early 2022, a level of impoverishment not seen in the country for decades.

Poverty alleviation efforts eradicated

By the end of last year, on average, 83 per cent of households in Myanmar had reported their incomes had been cut almost in half due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which alone pushed the number of people living below the poverty line by 11 percentage points, according to the study.

The agency defines Myanmar’s national poverty line as those living on below 1,590 kyat ($1.02) a day in 2017 terms.

Meanwhile, the military coup on February 1 and the following political and economic chaos, the deteriorating security situation and threats to human rights and development, could drive the poverty rate up by a further 12 percentage points by early next year.

The study further said that urban poverty is expected to triple, while the security situation was fracturing supply chains and hindering the movement of people, services and commodities, including agricultural goods, and putting pressure on Myanmar’s currency, the kyat, which has increased the price of imports and energy, while the banking system remains paralysed.

“Back to poverty not seen in a generation”

“Without functioning democratic institutions, Myanmar faces a tragic and avoidable backslide towards levels of poverty not seen in a generation,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“We are witnessing a compounding crisis of unprecedented severity and complexity,” Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, added.

“Myanmar had managed to halve poverty, and with its democratic transition was showing signs of firming up fragile human development gains (…) The combined effects of Covid-19 and the political crisis have caused a systemic shock which could lead to a long-lasting disruption in Myanmar’s development trajectory, unless addressed and resolved soon,” she added.

The UNDP said it was joining the UN Secretary-General in condemning, in the strongest terms, the killing of civilians in Myanmar and in calling for a firm, unified and resolute international response to the crisis as the situation continues to worsen.



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As much as half of Myanmar’s population of a total of nearly 55 million could be living in poverty next year as a result of the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the political and economic crisis sparked by the military coup, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says in a report published on April 30. This could erase all the progress that has been made in poverty alleviation since the beginning of the millennium when the poverty rate as per the country’s national poverty line was at around 45 per cent. Since, it has been brought down close to...

As much as half of Myanmar’s population of a total of nearly 55 million could be living in poverty next year as a result of the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the political and economic crisis sparked by the military coup, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says in a report published on April 30.

This could erase all the progress that has been made in poverty alleviation since the beginning of the millennium when the poverty rate as per the country’s national poverty line was at around 45 per cent. Since, it has been brought down close to 20 per cent during the nation’s short time window of political and economic opening, according to World Bank figures.

The study warns that the combined effect of the two crises could push up to 12 million people back into poverty. That could result in as much as 25 million people living below the national poverty line by early 2022, a level of impoverishment not seen in the country for decades.

Poverty alleviation efforts eradicated

By the end of last year, on average, 83 per cent of households in Myanmar had reported their incomes had been cut almost in half due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which alone pushed the number of people living below the poverty line by 11 percentage points, according to the study.

The agency defines Myanmar’s national poverty line as those living on below 1,590 kyat ($1.02) a day in 2017 terms.

Meanwhile, the military coup on February 1 and the following political and economic chaos, the deteriorating security situation and threats to human rights and development, could drive the poverty rate up by a further 12 percentage points by early next year.

The study further said that urban poverty is expected to triple, while the security situation was fracturing supply chains and hindering the movement of people, services and commodities, including agricultural goods, and putting pressure on Myanmar’s currency, the kyat, which has increased the price of imports and energy, while the banking system remains paralysed.

“Back to poverty not seen in a generation”

“Without functioning democratic institutions, Myanmar faces a tragic and avoidable backslide towards levels of poverty not seen in a generation,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“We are witnessing a compounding crisis of unprecedented severity and complexity,” Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, added.

“Myanmar had managed to halve poverty, and with its democratic transition was showing signs of firming up fragile human development gains (…) The combined effects of Covid-19 and the political crisis have caused a systemic shock which could lead to a long-lasting disruption in Myanmar’s development trajectory, unless addressed and resolved soon,” she added.

The UNDP said it was joining the UN Secretary-General in condemning, in the strongest terms, the killing of civilians in Myanmar and in calling for a firm, unified and resolute international response to the crisis as the situation continues to worsen.



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

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Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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