Basic businesses are fundamental for the entire economy

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Myanmar has to face a lot of challenges in various sectors on her path of democratic transition. But there are positive signs such as a gradual ease of doing business in Myanmar and the attention given to the private sector to boost the general economy. So even though Myanmar has numerous challenges, the socio-economy of the people is running smoothly.
Economists have pointed out that a much freer commerce model and more attention to the basic level of economy is needed to elevate Myanmar’s overall economy. Around 99 per cent of Myanmar’s businesses are made up of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which is why an expert from the World Bank has pointed out that strengthening the country’s economy with the interests of State and Regional level businesses is needed.
One of the basic-level businesses in the country is the production of edible oil which Myanmar citizens consume on a daily basis. In fact, there is a Burmese saying that a dish is not complete without oil. On average, a person consumes about 6 viss (21.6 pounds) of oil annually. Since Myanmar has a large general labor population, there is a huge market for imported edible oil.
In almost a decade, imported edible oil overshadowed the local market, effectively slowing down 90 per cent of local edible oil businesses. In 1990, imported edible oil was coming at around 10,000 tons monthly but has since increased to 50,000 to 70,000 tons a month. It is estimated to be worth USD 500 million.
When the number of local edible oil production plants decreased, demands rose for grains and husks, byproducts for feeding livestock. As a result, we now import around 500,000 tons of animal feed monthly which can total up to USD 200 million a year. To sum up, Myanmar spends a staggering USD 700 million a year on importing edible oil and animal feed. While the annual market price for imported and local edible oil has a difference of Ks 18,000 per person, in terms of aftereffects on health it can reach as high as Ks 100,000 per person.
We can now evidently see that relying on imported edible oil is detrimental to our country’s economy. It slows down MSMEs and is a cause for unemployment. To see onions, garlic, lentils and other agricultural products being imported from other countries when they can be cultivated right here in Myanmar is an unfortunate sight.
This is why we need to empower the basic-level businesses like these to turn Myanmar’s economy around on its head and also to create job opportunities. Not only edible oil, we need to revise our entire import policy to create a better model for the nation’s economy.

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