Myanmar slashes trade target on Covid after crippling coup

People line up outside a bank to withdraw cash in Yangon on May 13, 2021. (Reuters photo)
People line up outside a bank to withdraw cash in Yangon on May 13, 2021. (Reuters photo)

Myanmar, which has been in turmoil since a military coup in February, cut its trade target for this year by 16%, citing the impact of Covid-19.

The government reduced its trade outlook to $29 billion, from $34.7 billion forecast around the start of the fiscal year in October, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Khin Maung Lwin said in an interview this week. That would be down 21% from the previous fiscal and the lowest in five years, according to ministry data.

Sanctions and other international pressure since the coup have had no significant impact on trade, according to Khin Maung Lwin. The new forecasts put exports at $14 billion and imports at $15 billion, down about 14% and 19% from the previous outlook, respectively.

“The decline in trade volume is mainly driven by Covid-19, the same challenge that other countries are facing,” he said. “Our trading activities are operating as normal. Seaborne trade is also doing well, as cargo ships and vessels operate as normal.”

Workers’ strikes and protests against the coup, as well as international sanctions and restrictions on cash withdrawals at home, have crippled the Southeast Asian economy. The World Bank forecasts Myanmar’s gross domestic product to shrink 10% this year, while Fitch Solutions sees a 20% contraction as “all areas of GDP by expenditure are set to collapse.”

China tops Myanmar’s list of trading partners, accounting for almost $12.2 billion, or about one-third, of the total last fiscal year, followed by Thailand, Singapore, Japan and India, according to commerce ministry data.

On Thursday, Myanmar reported 24 new Covid-19 cases, bringing its total to 143,183, including 3,216 deaths. The nation has administered about 3 million doses of AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines.

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