Challenges to Small and Medium-size Businesses in Myanmar: What are they and how do we know?

Journal Article
Published on 1 December 2016


Kapteyn and Wah (2016) conducted a field survey of owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Yangon, Myanmar to investigate obstacles to business development in the region. The analysis focuses on access to credit, public services, and electricity. We find that relaxing loan collateral requirements is considered of prime importance, while access to bank loans is seen as problematic (equivalent to a 19 percentage point increase in the interest rate). Yet despite their widespread appeal to governments and donors, SME loans are found to have no discernible impact on perceived access to credit. Access to public services is hampered by cumbersome and time consuming procedures, often necessitating daylong trips to the capital for administrative procedures. Streamlining such procedures could yield annual savings of up to US $4700 per business. With regard to electricity, the biggest problems are installing new connections and the unreliability of supply. For benchmarking of concerns, we showed respondents vignettes describing hypothetical businesses facing a particular difficulty, and asked them to rate the gravity of the problem. Although we find some differences in response scales across socio-economic and ethnic groups, the qualitative conclusions about which problems are most important generally hold. This suggests that broad-based policy intervention aimed at easing a particular difficulty can be implemented.


Arie Kapteyn

University of Southern California

Saw Htay Wah

University of Southern California