Patron: Her Excellency The Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

Myanmar in Transition: From Cyclone Nargis to 2015 Elections

By Kate Yesberg

Asia Forum’s September event was presented by Fiona Natusch, Business Development Manager at Proximity Designs, a social enterprise in Myanmar that designs, produces, and delivers affordable products and services for small holder farmers.  Fiona presented a thoroughly interesting narrative of contemporary Myanmar society, drawing together threads from her own experiences in Myanmar, and the experience of others she has met.  Fiona’s story began with cyclone Nargis in 2008, and described the great devastation through much of the country in the aftermath of that disaster.  But she also told a story of growth and resilience.  There has been rapid change in Myanmar in recent years.  Fiona described the key factors affecting development, including urban migration, a surge of new investment, liberalisation in key sectors, including banking and telecommunications, the proliferation of media outlets and the use of social media to promote political dialogue.  Challenges remain, of course.  In her work at Proximity Designs, for example, Fiona deals with challenges arising from rural labour shortages and access to finance, among others.  On the whole, however, Myanmar is becoming stronger and more resilient.  So when tragedy struck again earlier this year – the flooding in Northern Myanmar – the country was in a much better position to respond to and recover from that disaster, than it was in 2008.  Looking forward, the elections later this year will be interesting to watch and will set a course for the next phase in Myanmar’s development.