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Economic Reforms Change Burmese Banks

Burma's financial industry has suffered from years of mismanagement under military rule. But more recently, the government has pushed through economic reforms. Those measures are changing the nation's banks and reenergizing businesses.

There are even hopes that Burma could become one of Asia's fastest growing economies: an Asian Tiger. Burma had the one of the best-performing economies in Southeast Asia before the military seized power in 1962.

Many years of state control over the economy followed. Widespread corruption and international sanctions left it one of the poorest countries in the area. Economist Sean Turnell says turning around the economy will require strong measures against corruption. That is why he says political change is important to economic reform. He says restrictive measures make it harder for Burmese to do business internationally.

The restrictions on foreign monetary exchange do not only hurt big business. They hurt small businesses, too. Here is an example. Nyi Nyi owns a workshop in Rangoon. He and his family manufacture toys for buyers from all over the world. His toy business is international, but Burma's banks are not. Nyi Nyi still depends on middlemen, called "hondis," to process foreign money transactions.

Foreign visitors to Burma once used black market money changers, and hondis are still the main method for international monetary transfers. But the government hopes this unsupervised, cash-based economy is ending. It plans to do this with new ATMs, or Automated Teller Machines, and foreign exchange licenses for private banks.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21Dec2012)
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