Burma said Monday it will end 26 years of economic isolationism and a rigidly controlled domestic economy and open its doors to foreign investment.

There was no indication the government of Gen. Saw Maung, who seized power Sept. 18, would become liberal politically."Burma will practice a market-oriented trade policy in line with the world economic trend, both in domestic and foreign trade," Trade Minister Col. Abel told a news briefing.

Abel said laws that would provide a favorable investment climate were being drafted and welcomed queries from both domestic and foreign investors on the new policies.

He said items such as teak, petroleum and gems would remain under government monopoly but private enterprises could become involved in all other sectors of the economy.

He said foreign investment would be permitted either directly or through joint ventures with the government or local private enterprises.

But Abel said there were no plans to change the current official exchange rate of six kyats to one dollar. Under this rate, private exporters often receive less from their transaction than the cost of the export commodity.

View Comments

Burma's economy spiraled downward last year and the country, according to experts, is virtually bankrupt following months of political unheaval and a freeze on aid by Japan, West Germany, the United States and other donors.

The international community has condemned the military government for suppression of popular dissent, which began late July following the retirement of Ne Win.

Ne Win, who seized power in a 1962 military coup, imposed a centrally directed economy and banned all private foreign investment. Under his authoritarian rule, one of Asia's potentially richest nations became among the world's poorest with an annual per capita income currently estimated at below $150.

Since late July thousands have been killed by an authoritarian regime trying to maintain its power in face of nationwide protest. Saw Maung has allowed the formation of political parties and promised a general election, but opposition leaders are skeptical that a free election can be held while the military wields power.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.