Myanmar min: 'sabotage' adding to economic woes

Myanmar's military-appointed authorities are doing their best to revive an economy in turmoil since a February coup and stabilize the kyat currency, a minister told Reuters in a rare interview on Tuesday (October 19).

Aung Naing Oo blamed the crisis partly on foreign backers of the junta's opponents.

"First, the very first evidence is they trying to sabotage the banking sector in the country, so as you know, they're trying to agitate the people to withdraw money from the banks and also, you know, they push the people to turn from the digital, the payment to the cash payment system."

The currency lost more than 60% of its value in September after the Southeast Asian nation was roiled by months of protests, strikes and economic paralysis following the coup.

The security situation has combined with the global health crisis to push up inflation, the minister said.

"From February this year, after the proclamation of the emergency, the inflation increased from 1.51 percent to 6.51 percent in July. So, this is the updated, according to the updated (figure), but, this is largely because of food and non-food items affected by the COVID-19 situation and the disruption to the supply chain because money supply is increasing around 20 percent year-on-year growth, inflation has been rising. That said, there is clear evidence of a coordinated economic sabotages as I said earlier, by elements working against the government."

Aung Naing Oo said foreign reserves stand at 11 trillion kyat, or $6.04 billion at the central bank's official rate - the first time Myanmar had disclosed its level of foreign currency since the coup.

It compares with a World Bank figure of just $7.67 billion at the end of 2020.

The minister did not specify which countries were seen as meddling, or give evidence to support the claim.

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