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Poverty soars in Myanmar: UN

UNDP has warned that the middle class in Myanmar is 'disappearing' amidst worsening insecurity and conflict
People queue to buy cheap vegetable oil, in Yangon on Aug. 18, 2022.

People queue to buy cheap vegetable oil, in Yangon on Aug. 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 12, 2024 05:00 AM GMT
Updated: April 12, 2024 05:05 AM GMT

Almost half of Myanmar's population of roughly 55 million people is living below the poverty line -- a figure that nearly doubled from 2017 to 2023, a UN report said on April 11.

Underscoring the erosion of the violence-wracked, junta-led nation's middle class, the new report from the UN Development Program says 49.7 percent of Myanmar's people are living on less than 1,590 kyats, or 75 US cents, a day.

That figure was 24.8 percent in 2017.

"The situation is likely to have deteriorated further by the time of this report's release," the UNDP darkly predicted. "An additional 25 percent of the population were hanging by a thread as of October 2023, just above the poverty line."

Since last autumn, clashes have escalated between the military and armed ethnic minority groups, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee, losing their sources of income.

Additionally, the Southeast Asian country has been unable to recover from a 17.9 percent drop in gross domestic product in 2021, when leader Aung San Suu Kyi's government was ousted from power by the military and the Covid pandemic was still a factor.

"A middle class that can buffer shocks and help a country recover faster is rapidly eroding, with a fall back into poverty," the UNDP said.

"The new data show that less than 25 percent of the population in Myanmar manage to secure steady incomes to live above the poverty line," UNDP chief Achim Steiner said in a statement.

"Without immediate interventions to provide cash transfers, food security and access to basic services, vulnerability will keep growing, and impacts will be felt across generations," Steiner warned.

The UNDP estimates that the country would need $4 billion a year to address its poverty, via cash transfers and other means.

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