Q1 2017 maintained the upward trend seen at the end of 2016, with healthy growth in GDP driven in part by continued foreign investment. As a result, some banks have increased their full-year GDP growth forecasts for 2017. ANZ, for example, has raised expected growth from 7.5% to 7.6%.

Low commodity prices slowed exports in 2016 and Q1 2017 failed to inject any strong momentum, despite price stabilisation in key commodities such as oil and gas. Major reasons included low prices for pulses and beans and regulation changes in the export of jade and teak wood. Meanwhile, imports contracted, with factors including government policies stopping the importation of second-hand cars and limiting the import and re-export of certain commodities via Myanmar. This helped stabilise the trade deficit, which reached US$4 billion by the end of 2016 (with imports of US$16 billion and exports of US$12 billion).

The government continues to implement policies to increase business opportunities for foreign investors. The most eye-catching change in regulations was the shortening of the list of activities that a foreign investor must undertake as a joint venture with a local business from 92 to 22. This move will be of particular interest to retailers, international hospitals and clinics, and petroleum product suppliers. Q1 2017 was also an important period for pharmaceutical multinationals, with the establishment of the International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association Myanmar (IPMAM), offering a clear point of contact for Myanmar stakeholders.