The role of the military in Myanmar's political economy
Stein, Pamela T.
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This thesis examines the role of Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, in the country’s political economy. Using a hybrid of the New Institutional Economics and the developmental state model as the analytical framework, a historical comparative analysis of Myanmar’s political economic institutions during its socialist period (1962–1988) and market liberalization period (1988–2010) reveals that the Tatmadaw was a major actor with a dominant role in shaping Myanmar’s political economic institutions. Myanmar’s socialist trajectory was enabled by the Tatmadaw’s monopoly of force and motivated largely by national security and the Tatmadaw leaders’ colonial experiences. Under the Tatmadaw’s leadership, socialist and militaristic institutions became ingrained in Myanmar’s political economy while the development of market-oriented institutions became significantly restrained. Although distorted political economic institutions caused the decline of Myanmar’s economy, the Tatmadaw’s desire to maintain political power was the key motivator for the regime to abandon socialism and embrace capitalism. Granted that Myanmar’s private sector has grown since market liberalization, lingering socialist-era norms continue to negatively influence the development of Myanmar’s economic policy and misshape emerging economic institutions.
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