After being nationalised in 1963, Myanmar’s financial system was liberalised in 1988, allowing for the emergence of several private banks. The government’s strategy for developing the sector includes a three-phase plan that emphasises an independent central bank and adequate regulation. Foreign banks are lining up at the country’s doorstep to tap into this potentially major market in the heart of South-east Asia, but significant challenges lie ahead, and risks to the banks, depositors and borrowers are evident. Competition for Myanmar’s banking sector is fierce, and a wide arsenal of tools must be carefully selected over the coming years if institutions hope to succeed. The country is also on its way to opening a local, modern Yangon Stock Exchange (YSE) by 2015 after Myanmar’s first stock exchange was closed in 1960. Rounding off Myanmar’s financial services sector, the insurance industry is also moving forward as, for the first time in 60 years, Myanmar has permitted private insurance companies to compete with the state monopoly.
This chapter contains interviews with U Win Shein, Minister of Finance, and Chairman, Myanmar Investment Commission; U Kyaw Kyaw Maung, Governor, Central Bank of Myanmar; and a banking roundtable with U Than Lwin, Deputy Chairman, KBZ Bank; U Kyaw Lynn, CEO, Cooperative Bank; and U Win Min Khine, Managing director, Apex Bank.