Over just 3 years, Myanmar has introduced ambitious reforms which have put it on track to become a modern economy. But big challenges still lie ahead.
Stephen P. Groff
Vice-President, Operations 2
Stephen P. Groff is Vice-President (Operations 2) of ADB. He assumed office in October 2011. Mr. Groff is responsible for the full range of ADB’s operations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. His mandate includes establishing strategic and operational priorities in his areas of responsibility, producing investment and technical assistance operations amounting to $4-5 billion annually, managing an existing portfolio of about $23 billion, and leading about 700 staff.
Any contemporary story on development in Asia-Pacific begins with reflection on massive gains achieved in the fight against poverty. The incidence of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 54.5% in 1990 to 20.7% in 2010, with the number of extreme poor declining from 1.48 billion to 733 million. This precipitous decline in poverty incidence has been accompanied by tremendous gains in access to health and education.
A multitude of statistics underscore the challenges that the people of Myanmar face when it comes to access to electricity - many of these illustrating a lack of conveniences other parts of the world consider commonplace, ranging from water pumps to stovetop ranges.
Can a nation once intentionally isolated from the world be rebuilt from the outside in? After decades of isolation, Myanmar has an extraordinary amount of work to do on every imaginable front. The country needs access to billions of dollars to bring modern irrigation systems to rural farmers, roads and electricity to remote communities, as well as technical and vocational training to prepare the country's youth for the jobs of the future.
My second meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was in early November. I had returned to the country to meet with officials and discuss next steps following our Board’s approval of our interim country partnership strategy. Following a variety of meetings in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, we returned to her residence on the outskirts of the capital. Madame Suu Kyi again greeted us at the entrance to her home and ushered us to the same table.
Over the course of our eleven-month “re-engagement” with Myanmar and my three trips to the country since June, I have discussed prospects for the country with literally hundreds of people. In a September op-ed, I quoted Rudyard Kipling who referred to the country as "quite unlike any land you know about" in his 1898 collection Letters from the East and these discussions leave me convinced that this century-old observation holds true.