A new report by International Growth Centre (IGC), a research centre based in the UK, has stated that Myanmar’s economic development depends just as much on regional capitals as it does on the major cities of Yangon and Mandalay.
The report highlighted how important it is to develop secondary cities as part of the established plan for boosting the main cities in the country. The research centre is based at the LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science) and is partnered with Oxford University. It has offices in London and Yangon and has released the report called Urban Myanmar.
Strategic growth centres
The three main growth centres as part of the government’s economic strategy for Myanmar are Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw.
Yangon takes its place as a crucial growth centre as it leads the country’s financial and commercial services, as well as exports due to its ports. Mandalay is up there as it is a major trading hub for northern Myanmar and should play a big part in many initiatives. Nay Pyi Taw retains its importance due to being the centre for the government.
However, the main thrust of the report warns against relying too much on the development of Yangon’s economy. It argues that inclusive development is vital, including the growth of regional capitals and secondary cities.
Cities like Yangon attract a lot of investment from overseas and develop quickly. They are busy importing new technologies for manufacturing, for example, giving firms based there an advantage. This can be seen with the garment factories that are situated on the border of Yangon, as well as the industries thriving in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone.
Moving industry out beyond key cities
The report said that secondary cities need to be connected with their regional towns and the main tier cities. This, along with border town and agro-industrial centres being linked will help to allow production to spread away from the main cities.
Secondary cities should be seen as regional hubs that are strategically very important for commercial gain. Similarly, the development of towns on the borders of cities can help to boost trade and support a national identity for the country.
Urban planning vital
Along with these suggestions, the report also says that urban planning is the key to make sure that cities become hubs of economic activity rather than centres of congestion and problems.
The three channels that make productive urban areas:
- Deep local product and labour markets that allow workers and companies to find jobs or fill positions quickly.
- Higher wages that attract workers to the cities.
- Availability of intermediary services.
These have all contributed to the success of Yangon’s growing economy and workforce and need to be implemented in other cities, as well as regional towns for the growth of the country’s overall economy.