Myanmar says will put stability ahead of economy: report

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 30, 2012 10:33 PM
Myanmar says will put stability ahead of economy: report

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Myanmar President Thein Sein said his government was committed to political reform and would put the stability of the country ahead of economic development, Singapore's Straits Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The president, in Singapore for a three-day official visit that began on Sunday, has overseen dramatic reforms over the past few months, including the freeing of hundreds of political prisoners, a loosening of media controls and engagement with Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the fight for democracy in Myanmar.

The government has also agreed to ceasefires with several ethnic rebel groups in the past three months and is holding talks with others, some of which have been fighting for autonomy for decades.

"The future of Myanmar lies in peace and stability, while economic development is a secondary priority for the country," Thein Sein said in an interview with the newspaper.

"We are already on the chosen path to democracy and we will continue. We are nurturing the system to have a flourishing democracy in the country," he said.

Thein Sein was part of the junta that stepped aside when a nominally civilian government took office last March. As the country has opened up to the outside world, he and his ministers have started speaking more to the media.

The president indicated interest in developing trade in foreign currencies and stocks as part of Myanmar's economic reforms.

"At the moment we do not have the skills and expertise (in this area) and are seeking technical assistance from international financial institutions," he said.

Japan's Daiwa Securities is advising on how to develop the barely functioning stock exchange it helped set up in Myanmar in the 1990s. South Korean bourse operator Korea Exchange has held talks with the authorities on a separate bourse.

The International Monetary Fund is advising on currency reforms.

Singapore said on Monday it would help Myanmar train its people in areas such as economic planning and urban development.

The government has launched a number of initiatives to boost the economy, introducing tax breaks for foreign investors and announcing tax exemptions to help exports of commodities such as rice, beans, corn and rubber.

(Reporting by Harry Suhartono; Editing by Alan Raybould)