Liveblog: Opening EA13

Ian Bremmer
President, Eurasia Group
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Join Ian Bremmer for a live discussion and analysis as this session unfolds including tweets, graphics, video and commentary.

On the occasion of the 22nd World Economic Forum on East Asia, the President of Myanmar and other dignitaries share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of regional integration and achieving inclusive growth.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 201310:14 am

well, it’s been a decidedly illuminating panel, and i’m glad i had the opportunity to share my thoughts with you..

until next time–
all best,

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 201310:13 am

there was one issue that didn’t come up in the summits i blogged that i thought would garner more attention. that’s the potential for food/water conflict in the long term. the structural numbers say it all:

-“in asia, the per capita availability of fresh water is less than half the world average.”
-“the per capita water availability in asia is said to be declining at the rate of 1.6 percent a year.”

-“asians produce and consume more than 90% of the world’s rice.”
-“demand for rice in many parts of asia could outstrip supply in the coming years, a concern reinforced by the fact that less than 6 percent of the continent’s rice output is internationally traded. with much of the world’s rice thus being consumed in the same countries where it is produced, rice markets are very segmented and protected.”
-“food demand in asia is projected to increase 50% by 2030.”

(h/t brahma chellaney – “water” (2011))

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 201310:08 am

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 201310:07 am

if you’ve enjoyed the summit so much that you want to relocate to myanmar– or if you just believe in the investment story that strongly– there is one other piece of bad news.

good luck finding office space.


Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 201310:05 am

that being said, even where the government lacks the political capital to provide infrastructure, all sorts of other entities are filling the gap.

the construction of road and rail networks with help from companies like coca-cola, neighboring countries, and international financial institutions such as the world bank and the imf, will increase myanmar’s connectivity to thailand, malaysia, and vietnam—all of which could become key trading partners interested in myanmar’s low labor costs and primary resources.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 201310:00 am

the summit, in my opinion, has done a masterful job of emphasizing how much potential myanmar has ahead of it– but too often the fact that that potential is a product of how backward it is today gets overlooked.

as myanmar emerges from sanctions, its shadow economy is still estimated at just over half of gdp (according to the world bank:

as i stressed in my earlier blog, the electrification rate is still below 30%, with electricity only provided for a few hours a day in some remote areas. in a population of 60m, only 620,000 or so are internet users.

while indonesia and thailand have about 250 and 370 vehicles per 1,000 people, myanmar has…18. and even if people had cars, there are insufficient roads— myanmar has about 18% of the roadway of the average southeast asia country.
(h/t economist)

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:51 am

as laos’ prime minister speaks, here is an interesting statistic that demonstrates how far behind myanmar is:

laos, with about a 10th of myanmar’s population, received the same amount of foreign direct investment in the calendar year 2012.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:49 am

there’s a central contradiction at play here as we watch these three leaders discuss international trust, collaboration and quality development. vietnam, laos, and myanmar are three of the four worst rated in the region when it comes to corruption:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:46 am

some stories of note:

laos recently sold its first sovereign bond.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:45 am

the prime minister of laos has taken the stage.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:44 am

vietnamese prime minister is calling for collaboration between countries in a mutual, harmonious fashion. domestically, though, we’ve seen politics play out in a more coercive manner:

“in the first five months of this year, more than 50 people were convicted in political trials, more than matching the total for 2012.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:42 am

our two speakers’ countries thus far don’t place too highly on the human development index report (2011):

myanmar: 149th / 186
vietnam: 127th / 186

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:40 am

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:40 am

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:38 am

prime minister dung has had to keep laser focus on his country’s bouts of inflation:


Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:36 am

and now to the vietnamese prime minister.

a bit of background here as well… in the next week, the vietnamese national assembly will hold its first ever vote of confidence — for prime minister nguyen tan dung and 48 other elected officials. dung’s place is safe.

here’s something you don’t see on every resume: he is a former viet cong communist guerilla… and one-time central bank governor.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:34 am

president thein sein has taken the stage. here’s a quick bio:

he’s the first president from myanmar welcomed in washington in 47 years.

he was born near the irrawaddy delta, which was among the hardest hit places by cyclone nargis in 2008– the worst ever such disaster in that area, killing 140,000 people. myanmar was simply unable to manage the catastrophe– there are people who think the military’s decision to engage in economic reform and cede power could have stemmed from the country’s inability to deal with the crisis.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:31 am

bear in mind, a 10% growth rate from a base as low as myanmar’s is not outside the realm of possibility. it’s more a product of where myanmar is starting from.

also, the figure is a bit misleading, as myanmar has nearly accomplished the feat over the last decade:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:28 am

klaus shwab is delivering the opening remarks:
“we are not here only as observers.”
“the reform process cannot only be top-down.”
“i am very optimistic about this country… by adapting fast, it can achieve a growth rate of 10% on a long-term basis.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:21 am

and they are introducing our speakers…

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:21 am

it’s not surprising that we have coca-cola in the audience here at the wef summit. it has a planned five-year $200 million investment– after having no local production for more than 60 years.

i actually interviewed coca-cola ceo muhtar kent a month back, on the subject of myanmar. here’s the text:

“Me: I could make the argument that the Obama administration’s single greatest foreign-policy success — although no one in the administration went into office anticipating it or spearheading it — was Myanmar opening up. It really worked. And Coke was in there fast. Coke was in there early. How did you do it?
MK: Earlier in my career, I guess I was fortunate to be in Vienna with the responsibility of opening up Eastern Europe — about 15 months before the Berlin Wall came down. Just like it was then, you had to make a call, that the wall would come down, and you had to spend money. And you’d look foolish spending money, opening offices behind the wall, if it didn’t come down. But everything proceeds too quickly not to prepare in advance. You just need to make a judgment call sometimes. I love Southeast Asia. As a child, I lived in that part of the world. My first time in Burma was in 1958 with my parents. And so recently we started talking to a lot of people; we have partners in Thailand. We firmly believed it [Burma] was poised for change.
Me: So the U.S. began suspending sanctions in Myanmar in May 2012. When did you start looking at the possibility of doing business there in a serious fashion?
MK: Seriously thinking we’d be in business? About three years ago.
Me: I met with their minister of tourism recently. He was talking about where Myanmar is on infrastructure — they need everything. As of last year, Myanmar’s electrification rate was 26 percent. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 ranks Myanmar at 172nd out of 176 countries. Is there a role Coca-Cola is playing to help Myanmar get up the curve faster — bureaucratic capabilities, infrastructure, all these things — to more quickly join the world of nations?
MK: I think we are helping. We’re getting Myanmar on board to join the 5 by 20 initiative for the economic empowerment of women. On top of that, we’re talking with our sustainability partners to have Burma realize the incredible value they have in the natural beauty of their country. They need to learn from the lessons of other countries where the pace of development came at the extreme detriment of nature. They have this special gem that they’ll be better off in the long run if they respect. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that you trade it for poverty. In the long run, every one of the 50 million-plus citizens can benefit from utilizing the natural environment responsibly.
Me: Coca-Cola remains on the sidelines in two major countries: Cuba and North Korea. Any speculation as to whether we’ll see Coca-Cola in Cuba in the next five years?
MK: No comment. “,0

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:18 am

an interesting fact about nay pyi taw: it’s the youngest capital city in the world. that is, the city of juba was more recently named a capital, but the city itself has been around for much longer than the newly built nay pyi taw.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:16 am

waiting for our speakers…

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20139:14 am

here’s a hint for what we can expect from vietnamese prime minister nguyen tan dung in his speech in the upcoming session. he spoke just yesterday and his three major talking points were the following:

1. trade is win-win, conflict lose-lose.
2. mutual trust- the prerequisite to peace
3. the responsibility lies with great powers

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20138:57 am

as we wait for myanmar president thein sein to speak, it’s worth having a look at what the leader of the opposition party (the nld), and the other pillar of myanmar’s civilian political landscape, had to say when she spoke here earlier today. aung san suu kyi:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer June 6, 20138:53 am

well it’s clear that myanmar came ready for the wef summit.

when asked about myanmar’s preparations, set aung, the deputy minister for national planning and economic development, responded: “we are like cats on hot bricks.”

which is to say, not quite as prepared as cats on hot tin roofs? but hey– that’s not bad for a beginner– it’s nay pyi taw’s first large international summit.

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