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Department of Economics

Burma Economic Watch

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Burma Economic Watch is a web page that provides up-to-date and reliable data, analysis and commentary on the economy of Burma. Information on the Burmese economy is both difficult to obtain and notoriously unreliable, while comment and analysis are often scarcely less so. The aim of this web page is to contribute to improving each of these areas and to encourage informed debate.

In doing so the Burma Economic Watch group has attained an international reputation for its economic research and commentary on this isolated, yet important country.

Burma Economic Watch is produced by an editorial team of scholars devoted to the study of Burma and its economy. Our team is Wylie Bradford, Sean Turnell and Alison Vicary.

Op-Eds / Interviews:

Publications

Recent Publication

Cover of book: Fiery Dragons - Banks, Moneylenders and Microfinance in BurmaFiery Dragons
Banks, Moneylenders and Microfinance in Burma

by Sean Turnell

Past publications

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell spoke to CNBCSean Turnell spoke to CNBC

  • Publication: CNBC
    Date: March 16 201

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics spoke to CNBC about Myanmar's economic outlook, following instability due to recent student-led demonstrations. Watch the video interview.

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell spoke to CCTV Sean Turnell spoke to CCTV

  • Publication: CCTV
    Date: March 6 201

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics spoke to CCTV about the state of the Australian economy

  • Photo relating to Myanmar's weak financial sectorMyanmar's weak financial sector
  • Myanmar's financial sector is still weak compared with other economic development sectors


    Publication: Asiaone.com
    Title: Myanmar's financial sector still weak, say experts
    Author:
    Date: December 2 2014

    At present, Myanmar's financial sector mobilizes insufficient capital for transformational development, says Mr Turnell at the seminar.

    From business.asiaone.com

  • Photo relating to Thailand and MyanmarThailand and Myanmar

  • Publication: The Gulf Today
    Title: The relationship between Thailand and Myanmar
    Date: 13 October 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics spoke to The Gulf Today about the relationship between Thailand and Myanmar, following the Thai Prime Minister's visit to Myanmar

  • Photo relating to Thailand's political influenceThailand's political influence
  • Thailand's economic ties with its neighbour to decline


    Publication:Yahoo News South Africa
    Title:Thailand's economic ties to its neighbour to decline
    Date:8 October 2014

    Sean Turnell provided comment in Yahoo! News South Africa, and Today, about how Thailand's political turbulence over the last decade has caused it's economic ties with its neighbour to decline

  • Photo relating to Myanmar welcoming foreign banksMyanmar welcoming foreign banks
  • Despite Myanmar welcoming foreign banks, weak credit protection and lending means it's not a warm welcome.


    Publication: CNBC
    Title: Myanmar welcoming foreign banks
    Date: 8 October 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics provided comment in a CNBC piece, saying that despite Myanmar welcoming foreign banks, weak credit protection and lending means it's not a warm welcome.

  • Photo relating to Abuse of Burmese migrant workersAbuse of Burmese migrant workers
  • Thailand government's failure to respond to the UN Human Rights Council
    about persisting allegations of abuse of Burmese migrant workers.


    Publication: The Irrawaddy
    Title: Abuse of Burmese migrant workers employed in the Thai food-processing industry
    Date: 7 October 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics provided comment in The Irrawaddy http://www.irrawaddy.org/business/irrawaddy-business-roundup-oct-4-2014.html regarding the Thailand government's failure to respond to the UN Human Rights Council about persisting allegations of abuse of Burmese migrant workers employed in the Thai food-processing industry.

  • Photo relating to Foreign lenders gain Myanmar licensesForeign lenders gain Myanmar licenses

  • Publication: CNBC
    Title: Foreign lenders gain Myanmar licenses
    Date: October 2nd 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics provided comment in a CNBC piece reporting that nine foreign lenders are to gain Myanmar licences

  • Photo relating to  Implications of new census data in Myanmar Implications of new census data in Myanmar

  • Publication: Bangkok Post
    Date: 9th September 2014
    Title: Lower than expected population count in Myanmar

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics has spoken to the Bangkok Post about the implications of new census data in Myanmar.

    Read Bangkok Post

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell spoke to the Myanmar TimesSean Turnell spoke to the Myanmar Times

  • Publication: Myanmar Times and Washington Post
    Title: StanChart, regional heavyweights out of licence race
    Date: 22 July, 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics spoke to the Myanmar Times about Standard Chartered's decision not to move forward with a banking license in Myanmar. He also spoke to The Washington Post about doing business in Myanmar.

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell referenced in a Radio Australia pieceSean Turnell referenced in a Radio Australia piece

  • Publication: Radio Australia
    Title: Julie Bishop announces increase in Australian aid to Myanmar
    Date: 7 July, 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics was referenced in Radio Australia in a piece about Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pledging an increase in aid to support Myanmar's peace process. He also spoke on ABC News 24 about UK, US and Australian relations with Myanmar.

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell referenced in the Cairns PostSean Turnell referenced in the Cairns Post

  • Publication: Cairns Post and New Zealand Herald
    Title: ANZ faces Myanmar bank hurdles
    Date: 3 July, 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics was referenced in the Cairns Post,Townsville Bulletin, and the New Zealand Herald in an article about the ANZ Banking Group bidding for a banking licence in Burma.

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell referenced in a Sharenet pieceSean Turnell referenced in a Sharenet piece

  • Publication: Sharenet
    Title: South East Asia faces renewed unity test as South China Sea tensions spike
    Date: 9th May 2014

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell from the Department of Economics was referenced in a Sharenet piece reporting on a surge of tensions in the South China Sea, which threatens to widen divisions between Southeast Asian nations. Also published in the GMA Network and EuroNews.

    Read the article on Sharenet

    Read the article on GMA Network

  • Photo relating to Associate Professor Sean Turnell was quoted in The IrrawaddyAssociate Professor Sean Turnell was quoted in The Irrawaddy

  • Commentary from Associate Professor Sean Turnell on Burma's new role as Asean chair in The Irrawaddy online.

    Publication: The Irrawaddy
    Title: Will the Asean Chair Strain Burma’s Resources?
    Date: 9 January, 2014

    Excerpt:

    “Managing the [Asean] chairmanship will impose extra burdens upon a narrow cohort of able people who are managing the reform process, but who are already grossly overworked. To this extent, the chairmanship could be an unwelcome distraction,” economist and Burma expert Sean Turnell told The Irrawaddy while visiting Rangoon.

    “On the other hand, the country is receiving assistance in the role from prior chair countries, which is likely to be helpful both for the matter at hand, and perhaps more broadly in terms of public administration.”

    View the article here

  • Photo relating to Associate Professor Sean Turnell was quoted in an article in the Straits TimesAssociate Professor Sean Turnell was quoted in an article in the Straits Times

  • Publication: Asia One
    Title: Death knell for Thailand's Dawei project?
    Date: 21 November, 2013

    Associate Professor Sean Turnell was quoted in an article in the Straits Times, talking about the future of Thailand's Dawei project: Death knell for Thailand's Dawei project?

    Excerpt: Professor Sean Turnell of Australia's Macquarie University, a specialist on Myanmar's economy, wrote in an e-mail: "The Dawei project is a dead man walking."

    "No one except the Thai government really wants it."

    He added that it offered little more than rent payments to Myanmar. "These were of interest to Myanmar's old rent-seeking military regime, but are not so attractive to a government trying to deliver real transformational growth and employment."

    Read the full article

  • Photo relating to Associate Professor Sean Turnell provided comment to the Myanmar TimesAssociate Professor Sean Turnell provided comment to the Myanmar Times

  • Publication: Myanmar Times
    Title: World Bank revises GDP growth to 6.8%
    Date: 13 October, 2013
    Author: Philip Heijmans and Aye Thidar Kyaw

    Excerpt: Sean Turnell, an expert in Myanmar’s economy at Australia’s Macquarie University, said the current inflation undermines the nation’s competitiveness as the misallocation of resources through arbitrary changes in price relativities put a dent in the real purchasing power of money, especially among those on fixed or low-wage incomes.

    “The World Bank report sounds plausible in terms of a representative basket of consumer goods,” he said by email. “Prices in other areas, especially with respect to real estate, have risen much faster and higher of course,” he said.

    On the other hand, the current US dollar exchange rate of K970 seems an “appropriate ballpark” that is not too low to invite inflation.

    “It gives a boost to the competitiveness of Myanmar’s exports and import substitutes, while at the same time making the country a more attractive location for foreign investment,” he said.

    For the moment there is probably not a lot the central bank could do about surging property prices, he said.

    Read the full article

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell was mentioned in the Myanmar Times article Sean Turnell was mentioned in the Myanmar Times article "Micro lenders eye growth paths"

  • Publication: Myanmar Times
    Title: Micro lenders eye growth paths
    Date: 29 September, 2013
    Author: Jeremy Mullins

    Excerpt: Sean Turnell, an economics professor at Macquarie University, said prudential regulations are necessary for the microfinance sector and the financial industry as a whole, adding the trick is to get the balance right between regulation that discourages imprudent lending and excessive indebtedness this creates, while not restricting the sector's capabilities.

    "Such a balance is especially difficult to arrive at in Myanmar at this time, since there has been something of a 'rush' of microfinance firms," he said."

    Historically, and in other countries, dramatic expansions of microfinance have fuelled 'boom and bust' episodes that have been greatly destructive of confidence."

    Mr Turnell also said he is "sanguine about the entry of foreign MFIs, and [worries] more about local moneylending operators and the like taking up MFI licences."

    Read the full article

  • Photo relating to Associate Professor Sean Turnell contributes to the article Associate Professor Sean Turnell contributes to the article "Myanmar's new old friend" in the Bangkok Post

  • Publication: Bangkok Post
    Title: Myanmar’s new old friend
    Date: 23 September, 2013
    Author: Joseph Schatz

    Excerpt: Japan has been “by far the most vigorous of the countries ‘engaging’ Myanmar since the arrival of [Myanmar president] Thein Sein”, says Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert and economics professor at Australia’s Macquarie University.

    “Japan certainly perceives a special relationship — a mixture of contemporary strategic and aid policies as well as historical sentiment,” says Macquarie University’s Turnell. The sentiment, he said, “relates to a widespread notion in Japan that the country acted as something of a midwife to Myanmar’s independence in light of its (temporary) ending of British rule in the Second World War”.

    Read the full article

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell comments to Asia Times about the Myanmar economySean Turnell comments to Asia Times about the Myanmar economy

  • Professor Sean Turnell spoke to Asia Times Online about Myanmar's currency, and the current issues around imperfections in bills.

    Publication: Asia Times Online
    Title: Clean bills or bust in Myanmar
    Date: 3 July, 2013

    Excerpt:

    Sean Turnell, an economics professor at Macquarie University in Sydney and an expert on the Myanmar economy, confronted the discerning monetary situation when on a recent trip to the country he tried to settle the bill at his hotel.

    "The serial number of the bill was CB and the belief was, even though this sounds so absurd, the belief was that CB stood for counterfeit bill," Turnell said. "I explained to the young girl behind the counter in one of the top hotels and I said well if it were a counterfeit bill it wouldn't have CB on it. She completely agreed and at one point said 'We really have to get over this'."

    Read the full article "Myanmar's Demand For Pristine Dollar Notes, Following A History Of Monetary Instability, Borders On The Absurd"

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell advises on Myanmar's currencySean Turnell advises on Myanmar's currency

  • Professor Sean Turnell spoke to International Business Times about Myanmar's currency, and the current issues around imperfections in bills.

    Publication: International Business Times
    Title: Myanmar's Demand For Pristine Dollar Notes, Following A History Of Monetary Instability, Borders On The Absurd
    Date: 4 July, 2013

    Excerpt:

    "The serial number of the bill was CB and the belief was -- even though this sounds so absurd -- that CB stood for counterfeit bill," ... Turnell encountered the situation on a recent trip to the country. "I explained to the young girl behind the counter in one of the top hotels and I said well if it were a counterfeit bill it wouldn't have CB on it. She completely agreed and at one point said 'We really have to get over this'."

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell quoted regarding Japanese work contracts in BurmaSean Turnell quoted regarding Japanese work contracts in Burma

  • Publication: International Business Times
    Topic: Myanmar's Economy to Receive Boost from Japanese and Korean Investment
    Date: 22 June, 2013

    Excerpt: "Many Japanese firms, particularly in the areas of infrastructure and so on, who are only too glad to win contracts to do development work in Burma," said Sean Turnell

  • Photo relating to Myanmar economic expert Sean Turnell speaks to Brunei TimesMyanmar economic expert Sean Turnell speaks to Brunei Times
  • Associate Professor Sean Turnell spoke to the Brunei Times regarding Myanmar and the World Economic Forum (WEF).


    Publication: The Brunei Times
    Title: Myanmar ready to show off at WEF
    Date: 5 June, 2013

    Excerpt: "Myanmar economic expert Sean Turnell, a professor at Australia's Macquarie University, likened the conference to a 'debutante's ball'.

    'Of course, expectations are too high. Indeed, I think elevated expectations are one of the dangers facing the country,' he added."

  • Photo relating to Trade in Myanmar - Sean TurnellTrade in Myanmar - Sean Turnell
  • Associate Professor Sean Turnell spoke to the Bangkok Post about trade and Myanmar.

    Publication: Bangkok Post
    Title: Pipelines to make Myanmar trade hub
    Date: 27 May 2013

    Excerpt: "Burma (Myanmar) is now the world's second-largest producer of pulses and beans, and most of it is exported to India," Turnell said. "The port could open the door to other commodities."

    Read the full article "Pipelines to make Myanmar trade hub".

  • Photo relating to Myanmar Abolishes Dollar Surrogate - IPOT NewsMyanmar Abolishes Dollar Surrogate - IPOT News
  • Sean Turnell was quoted regarding Myanmar's economic situation in an article for IPOT News.

    Publication: IPOT News
    Title: Myanmar Abolishes Dollar Surrogate
    Date: 20 March 2013
    Author: Kirim Komentar

    Excerpt: "Sean Turnell, a Myanmar economic expert at Australia's Macquarie University, said the announcement could be a new test of public confidence in the government's handling of the economy.

    "In the past movements like this have caused panics, but perhaps there is greater trust in monetary arrangements now," he said, adding that those holding FECs would rush to convert them to dollars.

    "Given the rise of the kyat, and depending on when they bought the FECs, many FEC holders might experience a considerable capital loss in kyat terms," Turnell said."

    Read full article "Myanmar Abolishes Dollar Surrogate"

  • Photo relating to Sean Turnell on the topic of slashing poverty in BurmaSean Turnell on the topic of slashing poverty in Burma

  • Publication: Arab News
    Title: Frustration foments in Yangon’s slums despite reforms
    Date: 11 December 2012

    Excerpt: "It is an “ambitious” goal, says Sean Turnell, an economist at Macquarie University in Sydney, backing Myanmar’s potential to achieve rapid growth and simultaneously reduce poverty.
    But that will only be possible with “a focus on agriculture” he says, calling for far-sighted policy to boost a sector which provides a living for the vast majority of Myanmar’s people. The government has been widely praised for major economic initiatives, including unifying multiple exchange rates, and enacting a foreign investment law."

    Read full article "Frustration foments in Yangon’s slums despite reforms"

  • Photo relating to Burma - Asia's Chaotic Rising StarBurma - Asia's Chaotic Rising Star
  • Sean Turnell spoke to Irrawaddy about issues with Burma's infrastructure.


    • Publication: The Irrawaddy
    • Story: Burma - Asia's Chaotic Rising Star
    • Date: 17 November 2012
  • Photo relating to Radio National - Sean TurnellRadio National - Sean Turnell
  • Sean talks about the need for economic reform in Burma on ABC Radio 
    • Media: ABC Radio National
    • Segment: Asia Pacific
    • Date: 16 October 2012


  • Photo relating to InFinance - Sean TurnellInFinance - Sean Turnell
  • Sean discusses the opportunities Asian markets are set to have on the Australian Banking Industry.
    • Publication: InFinance Magazine
    • Story: Capitalising on the Asian Opportunity
    • Issue: March 2012
  • Photo relating to Sydney Morning Herald - Sean Turnell Sydney Morning Herald - Sean Turnell
  • Sean discusses America's returning interest in Burma 
    • Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
    • Story: US scrambles back into Burma in a race for influence
    • Date: 6 February 2012
  • Photo relating to Australian - Sean Turnell Australian - Sean Turnell
  • Sean comments on the recent series of reforms that are underway in Burma and what that means for Western economic sanctions currently imposed on the country.
    • Publication: Australian
    • Story: Suu Kyi backs Burma reforms but says sanctions should stay
    • Date: 26 October 2011

    Read Sean's comments

  • Photo relating to Yahoo7 News - Sean Turnell Yahoo7 News - Sean Turnell
  • Sean comments on Myanmar's decision to allow workers to form unions and to go on strike


    • Publication: Yahoo7 News
    • Story: Myanmar workers win right to strike
    • Date: 17 October 2011
  • Photo relating to LA Times - Sean Turnell  LA Times - Sean Turnell
  • Sean comments on Myanmar's decision to terminate the controversial Myitsone dam project
    • Publication: Los Angeles Times
    • Story: Myanmar calls surprise halt to controversial China-backed dam
    • Date: 1 October 2011

    Read Sean's comments