Special Economic Zones—lessons for Myanmar

Authors: Chung-Tong Wu*, Western Sydney University
Topics: Development, Urban and Regional Planning, Third World
Keywords: Myanmar, special economic zones, development policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Oak Alley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The spectacular rise of China as an economic power has often been credited to its special economic zone (SEZ) strategy adopted as the key initiatives at the start of its open policy. As a result, over the past three decades, SEZs have become a widely adopted strategy for many countries seeking economic development or renewal. Zoning for development (Ong 2004) has indeed become a preferred strategy in both developing and industrialized economies but its prevalence in industrializing countries is particularly notable (FIAS 2008). SEZs and their predecessor, export processing zones, are physical expressions of export-led industrialization strategies facilitated by rapid globalization. Myanmar is among the latest Asian economy to adopt the SEZ strategy with one SEZ (Thilawa) already in operation and two others (Dawei and Kyauk Phyu) designated for development. In contrast to the original Chinese approach and those that have developed export processing zones, Myanmar, like some African nations, is relying on foreign donors or their surrogate entities, to develop its SEZs. This exploratory study investigates three questions: (1) What are the general lessons about SEZ development germane to Myanmar? (2) Are there relevant lessons for Myanmar arising from the experience of those nations that rely on foreign donors to develop their SEZ? (3) In a context where globalization is being challenged by policy makers and civil society in some industrialized and industrializing countries, are there potential risks for Myanmar pursuing an export-oriented industrialization based development policy?

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