UN report reveals Myanmar’s middle class vanishing as poverty soars. (Anti-coup protesters pray in Yangon on March 14. — AFP)

The economic situation in Myanmar is dire and the middle class is disappearing amid a surge in poverty, according to a recent United Nations report.

Nearly half of Myanmar’s 55 million people now live below the poverty line, a figure that has almost doubled from 24.8% in 2017 to 49.7% in 2023.

The situation is predicted to have worsened since the report’s release, with an additional 25% of the population barely above the poverty line.

Escalating conflicts between the military and armed ethnic groups since last autumn have exacerbated the situation, displacing hundreds of thousands and stripping away their livelihoods.

Moreover, Myanmar’s economy continues to struggle, with a significant 17.9 per cent GDP drop in 2021 following the military coup that ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and the ongoing impact of the COVID pandemic.

The UNDP warned that the middle class, which can help a country recover faster, is rapidly eroding. Expressing concern for the fast-eroding middle class, UNDP Chief Achim Steiner underscored the urgent need for intervention.

“The new data show that less than 25 percent of the population in Myanmar manage to secure steady incomes to live above the poverty line,” UNDP chief Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“Without immediate interventions to provide cash transfers, food security and access to basic services, vulnerability will keep growing, and impacts will be felt across generations,” Steiner said.

Less than 25% of Myanmar’s population now has a steady income above the poverty line. Hence, immediate action is imperative, he stressed.

“The situation is likely to have deteriorated further by the time of this report’s release,” the UNDP report predicted.

“An additional 25 percent of the population were hanging by a thread as of October 2023, just above the poverty line.”

The UNDP estimates that $4 billion a year is needed to address the country’s poverty.

“A middle class that can buffer shocks and help a country recover faster is rapidly eroding, with a fall back into poverty,” the UNDP said.

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