2012 / 11月
Teng Sue-feng /tr. by Jonathan Barnard
Some photos taken by a colleague while in Myanamar have really grabbed my attention. They offer views onto the lit-up Buddhist Shwedagon Pagoda, which has more than 2000 years of history and is the center of the nation’s religious life. They show rough, pock-marked roadways, ramshackle low-rise houses, and small stands conducting their nighttime business by candlelight. The images can’t help but prompt comparisons to mainland China of 20 some years ago—backwards but bursting with vitality.
Myanmar has been blessed with a copious natural bounty. Its vast woodlands have earned it the nickname “the forest kingdom,” and its deposits of jade and precious stones are even more notable. But the military government that long ruled the nation stifled its economic development. The national per capita income now stands at only a little above US$700, making it one of Asia’s poorest countries. Two years ago, the ruling junta released the democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. She returned to the political realm, and elections were held. In just a few short years and after a long period of isolation, the nation has taken high-profile strides to open up and shake off its outcast status among the community of nations. In the process it has become a favorite subject for overseas reports among media outlets in Taiwan.
Myanmar is currently one of the world’s major targets for overseas investment. Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese business strategist and trend analyst, believes that after the four BRIC countries and the “Vitamin 10” nations (which include Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina and so forth), the next hot new bases for global manufacturing will be in the four Southeast Asian nations of Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Bangladesh, which alike feature the strong selling point of low-cost labor.
The Asian Development Bank in August announced that if Myanmar continued on its reform path, it could end up as one of Asia’s fastest growing economies in the years leading up to 2030, with annual growth rates of 7-8% and per capita income tripling over those years. The bank recently revised downward its anticipated 2013 growth rates for many places, including mainland China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Uniquely, Myanmar saw its expected growth rise (to 6.3%). The nation’s economic potential is clear for all to see.
Like investors from around the world, Taiwanese businesses people—who continually scan the globe looking for opportunities—have focused on Myanmar.
Apart from eyeing Myanmar’s huge labor force, foreign investors are even more impressed by the friendly, honest character of the people and the nation’s lack of crime.
To report on the front-line experiences and ideas of ROC business people vis-s-vis Myanmar, Taiwan Panorama has sent reporters to both Myanmar and Thailand. (Next month’s issue of the magazine will focus more specifically on Thailand, examining the challenges and opportunities that Taiwanese businesses face there.)
“It’s better to give someone a fishing rod than a fish.” By investing in Southeast Asia, Taiwanese businesses have brought jobs and raised the level of local skills and technology. The foreign medical assistance provided by Taiwan aims to achieve similar ends.
Since 1962, medical teams from Taiwan have been flying across continents and national boundaries, sometimes more than 10,000 kilometers away. They have helped the people of diplomatic allies and non-allies alike to rid themselves of parasites and diseases. They have established basic medical and sanitation systems and trained local medical personnel. Performing the same kind of service to the local residents that Albert Schweitzer performed in Africa in the early 20th century, the young people on these teams, many barely out of college, have been bolstering the image of the Republic of China.
Liu Chi-chun, chairman of the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps, explains that with the arrival of medical teams from Taiwan people who have been anxiety-ridden about their medical conditions gradually grow calmer and regain a sense of hope.
Providing foreign medical assistance has made the high level of healthcare in Taiwan world famous and earned the nation gratitude and friendship. For these achievements, let us thank the quiet heroes of those medical teams for their tremendous sacrifices and contributions.