The coronavirus pandemic, along with instability after a military coup in February, could plunge nearly half of Myanmar’s population into poverty, reversing economic gains over the past 16 years, according to the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP).
“The ongoing political crisis will undoubtedly further aggravate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, reducing revenue,” the UNDP said in a report (PDF) published Friday.
In the worst case scenario of the organization, 48.2 percent of Myanmar’s population, the equivalent of about 26 million people, could be in poverty by 2022, compared to 24.8 percent of 2017, the UNDP said.
The agency defines Myanmar’s national poverty line as those living below 1,590 kyat ($ 1) a day in terms of 2017.
According to the UNDP, the political crisis is likely to sharply affect small businesses, leading to a loss of wages and falling access to food, basic services and social protection.
Women carrying weight
As a result, women and children are expected to bear the brunt of the two crises.
“It is likely that the effects of COVID-19, amplified by the effects of the overthrow of the civilian government, will lead to a disproportionate increase in urban poverty.
“This is related to the fact that urban areas, where most of the income-generating activities of the nearby poor are located, have been the zero point of the pandemic and the focus of the most severe repressions,” the authors wrote. of the report.
Even before the recent events, a third of Myanmar’s population lived “with low levels of consumption that put them at risk of falling into poverty,” the agency said.
More than 83 percent of households have reported a drop in income since early 2020, according to UNDP.
Myanmar was plunged into a crisis on February 1 when the military arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the National League for Democracy and seized power on their own. The coup sparked a movement of civil disobedience and mass protests across the country to which security forces have responded with increasing violence.
The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group that has been tracking arrests and deaths, says 759 people have been killed since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was ousted. His records show 3,461 detainees.
Myanmar has reported 142,800 cases of COVID-19 with 3,209 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. New daily cases have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the year.
The UN Food Agency said last month that rising food and fuel prices in Myanmar since the coup risk undermining the ability of poor families to feed themselves. .
The World Food Program (WFP) said food prices were rising, with palm oil 20 percent higher in some parts of Yangon’s main city since early February and rice rose 4 percent in the Yangon and Mandalay areas since late February.
The Myanmar Army, o Tatmadaw, controls large parts of the country’s economy, with interests in Myanmar’s mobile phone system, the tourism, food and beverage sector and its profitability gemstone mining industry. Foreign investors, including global clothing brands that have used Myanmar as a source of cheap labor, have also been reassessing their participation in the country, likely putting more pressure on the economy and its workers.