“Myanmar Development Forum” on OISCA DAY 2016
Against the background of growing interest in Myanmar which has undergone remarkable political and economic changes in the recent years, OISCA organized a commemorative event entitled “Myanmar Development Forum” on July 23 marking the OISCA DAY (the birthday of its founder, the late Reverend Yonosuke Nakano).
The special event was held at the hall of the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo and was attended by a total of 146 people, mostly representatives from OISCA member corporations and organizations. At the outset, Ms. Etsuko Nakano, President of OISCA Japan, delivered an opening message highlighting the close relationship of OISCA with Myanmar which dates back to 1996. It was followed by the remarks of H.E. U Thurain Thant Zin, Ambassador of Myanmar. He discussed the purposes of Myanmar`s agricultural development including the provision of sufficient amount of food, maintaining the health of the people with good quality of food and exporting of agricultural produce thus gaining profits.
Complementing the Ambassador`s remarks, Ms. Ei Ei Khine, Economic Counsellor, made a detailed presentation on Myanmar’s agricultural development. According to her, 70% of the Myanmar population is engaged in agriculture accounting for 29.8% in GDP and 23.4% in export earnings. She said that her country would strongly promote various industries based on agriculture and would be a major food supplier in Asia in the future.
Representing Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Masahiko Tanoi, Deputy Director-General for International Affairs, took the floor. He visited Myanmar on duty trips five times and observed that the country could be a very important partner for Japan in the agricultural field.
Mr. Yasuaki Nagaishi, Managing Director of OISCA, presented an overview of the OISCA activities in Myanmar. He explained that OISCA first started its activities with dispatching a 3-men development mission in 1996, established the training center with grassroots grant aid from Japan’s Foreign Ministry in 1997. OISCA has been carrying out projects mainly in 3 fields: capacity building, community development and environmental conservation for developing sustainable “FURUSATO”. He revealed that in OISCA’s operations in Myanmar, there have been, not only successful stories but also many failures.
Then, Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka, former Director of UNDP Office in Myanmar, made a key note speech entitled “Human-oriented development in Myanmar: in search of harmony and richness”. Citing a wealth of statistics, he briefed on the socio-economic development of Myanmar. There are many young people while the number of those who are over 65 years old is small. The large working population will continue for another 10 years. Therefore, there is a high potentiality for development in the future. On the other hand, the average life span being 60-71 years is low and the literacy rate is one of the lowest among the ASEAN countries. The recent economic growth rate is about 7%, but the country is still among the least developed countries. He said that OISCA and other Japanese NGOs are playing a substantive role in the human-oriented development of Myanmar.
Afterwards, a panel discussion followed. The panelists were, besides Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka, Mr. Hiroshi Ishihara, Director of Planning Department, Keidanren Committee on Nature Conservation; Dr. Kozue Nagata, Professor at Nagoya Gakuin University and Mr. Tadashi Watanabe, OISCA Board Member. Mr. Nagaishi acted as facilitator.
Mr. Ishihara said that a group from Keidanren Committee on Nature Conservation visited in 1996 when OISCA training center was still in the building stage. At that time, the Committee already decided to support the projects for constructing Nature protection center and expansion of irrigation canals. He went to Myanmar again in November 2011 and visited the OISCA Agro-Forestry Training Center. He had the impression that Japanese private companies which are conscious of the harmony between economic development and environmental protection would be able to play an important role in Myanmar.
Prof. Nagata pointed out that development without culture is meaningless, the protection of cultural heritages would contribute to sustainable development through the tourism sector. Also, the protection of Myanmar’s intangible cultural heritages could lead to economic activities at grassroots level.
Meanwhile, Mr. Watanabe explained in historical sequence the major developments of OISCA’s 20-year operations in Myanmar.
In response to a question as to why Keidanren decided to support the OISCA projects in Myanmar, Mr. Ishihara responded that the OISCA’s activities were neutral and substantive. He cautioned, however, that although Myanmar has greater possibilities for economic development than other countries, we have to always think about maintaining harmony between development and environmental conservation.
Asked to elaborate on the economic possibilities of tangible cultural heritages, Professor Nagata said that the promotion of lacquerware and fabrics could be attractive. Regarding future expectations for OISCA, Mr. Tanaka suggested that OISCA should further promote cherishing the human spirit, but at the same time, needs to deal with the rapidly changing society by effectively utilizing IT technology.
Following the hard discussions, all the participants moved to a social gathering. Traditional Myanmar food and Myanmar beer as well as Japanese dishes and drinks were served. The participants enjoyed social talks over tasty food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.
One of the gentlemen commented: “I have been to Myanmar on OISCA-arranged on-site observation tour. Through the presentations and discussions today, I could increase my knowledge about the economic development potential in Myanmar. I am eager to visit the country again in a near future”.