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Thank you, Vikram, for that kind introduction. And thank you to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for hosting this important conference.
It is a pleasure to be here alongside esteemed colleagues to align our priorities in support of a peaceful and prosperous Myanmar that contributes to regional stability and is reintegrated as a responsible member of the international community.
We look forward to hearing from our Japanese colleagues who have much insight to share, as Japan has been providing assistance to Myanmar long before the United States. And we commend the Japanese for their generosity. It is worth acknowledging that last year, Japan was the top humanitarian aid donor in Myanmar. And to kick off another strong year, Prime Minister Abe announced nearly $100 million last month to promote peace in conflict areas.
With the establishment of a formal USAID mission in Myanmar in 2012, the United States recognizes the recent reform efforts as the most significant opportunity in decades to engage with the people of Myanmar. And we are hard at work. In fact, USAID Administrator Dr. Shah is scheduled to be in Myanmar later this week to continue momentum on key issues.
As we look to the critical 2015 national elections, the United States is committed to helping Myanmar lay the foundation for a stable and prosperous future that is determined and shaped by its people.
Central to this is the peaceful resolution of Myanmar’s long-standing armed conflicts and addressing on-going inter-communal violence. Only then can a genuine and inclusive national dialogue take place around key reforms, helping to cement their future. That is why our multi-faceted approach includes a strong focus on the peace and reconciliation process.
In fact, increasing citizen engagement in shaping Myanmar’s future is at the very core of the U.S.-Myanmar Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity, launched in late 2012 by both governments. Consistent with the aspirations of the people of Myanmar, this Partnership strives to ensure that all the people of Myanmar play a vital role in their country’s development and share a stake in its future.
These shared principles — of inclusivity, transparency, accountability and local empowerment — are embodied in our economic growth work. I’d like to highlight three key areas for USAID:
- Investment in smallholder farmers as a way to reduce poverty and jumpstart growth
- Engagement of the private sector and civil society to promote improved economic governance through structural and policy reform
- Implementation of the right policy framework that encourages responsible private sector investment to sustain inclusive economic growth
As Mr. Kudo mentioned, investments in smallholder farmers are fundamental to unlocking agricultural growth and reducing poverty in a country where 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods.
That’s why a major priority for us as we move forward is to focus on increases in the productivity and profitability of rural enterprises with an emphasis on smallholder farmers and the landless.
We’re looking at this through a research and technology lens, and we are also looking at this through a policy reform lens, with a focus on five key reforms that enable smallholder farmers and the landless to be an integral part of both driving — and benefiting — from growth.
Engaging the private sector is an important part of the process — to both shaping inclusive policy reform and making the right investments.
Together with civil society, we are making progress. For example, thanks to participation from civil society and the private sector in discussions with government officials about critical reform issues, a controversial law was drastically changed to support small farmers as opposed to giving more control to government regarding crop choices.
Key to driving and sustaining inclusive economic growth will be responsible private sector investment and competition. As Myanmar opens its doors wider to the international community, this can only be achieved by putting the right policy framework in place now.
Japan and the United States have mutual objectives in this arena, particularly to ensure that the legislative development process is transparent, accountable and participatory. We must continue our efforts promoting this at the highest levels.
We welcome the exploration of potential areas of collaboration between the U.S. and Japan. For example, we are working with the Attorney General’s Office, Parliament, the courts, government agencies, the private sector and civil society on modernizing laws and regulations effecting trade, responsible investment, and the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN presents incredible opportunities to achieve great gains in these areas, and, if handled well, can help advance Myanmar’s integration into ASEAN and catalyze its reform agenda. We are committed to supporting Myanmar in its efforts to meet ASEAN’s goals for regional economic integration.
This is a historic and pivotal time in Myanmar. Although only a year old, USAID’s mission in Myanmar is quickly becoming the Agency’s “model mission” in leveraging talent and innovation everywhere to more effectively support Myanmar’s unprecedented reforms, the welfare and well-being of the people of Myanmar, and a peaceful transition from current strife.
The United States and Japan have been very closely coordinated in our response to the people of Myanmar. We look forward to continuing to join together in support of a thriving Myanmar.
Last updated: December 18, 2015