October 29, 2014 —Three young adults with a strong commitment to serving their native Myanmar are making the rounds of Washington, D.C., and observing work at Nathan Associates as recipients of fellowships from the Robert R. Nathan Memorial Foundation.
The three—Wint War Lwin, Zaw Yadanar Hein, and Win Min—have been following a dizzying schedule of visits and discussions at U.S. government offices, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations. Through exposure to the work at Nathan, they are seeing how economic consultants can help countries unleash potential through infrastructure development, sound policies, and enhanced trade.
The three are impressed with the level of interest in Myanmar, formerly Burma, which is instituting economic and political changes after years of isolation. They hope to part of that change when they complete their fellowships and return home.
Win Min will be completing his studies in planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon, then perhaps working elsewhere, before returning home. “I want to be sure I have the personal capacity to recommend the right policy,” he said. “I want to work for the government—but—really, I want to work for the people of Burma.” He is sure that the contacts he has cultivated in the United States, and among the networks of people interested in Myanmar, will prove very helpful.
Wint War Lwin, who recently received her master’s from the Yangon Institute of Economics, has a special interest in infrastructure and small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). She concluded in her thesis that infrastructure development is necessary for SME development. Yet infrastructure development in Myanmar “is very weak compared with other ASEAN countries,” she said. She hopes to learn as much as possible about infrastructure during her fellowship, then work for the Myanmar Development Institute or a similar organization when she returns.
Zaw Yadanar Hein, also a master’s recipient from Yangon, cares about land reform. “There are lots of land issues yet there is and no land reform policy in our country,” she said. The powerful, including the army, can take property from farmers for various projects, according to press accounts and rights groups.
Zaw Yadanar Hein, who also goes by the nickname July—like the month–said Americans and foreign guests in Washington ask her about the transparency of next year’s general elections and how the government can “solve the problems” between government and ethnic groups.
Myanmar holds special significance for Nathan Associates because of founder Robert R. Nathan’s achievements in Burma from 1953 to 1962, which helped establish the firm’s reputation in economic development.
Wint War Lwin and Zaw Yadanar Hein began their program at Nathan Associates in October and will be at the firm until early December. Win Min had to shorten his stay in order to resume his studies.
The three represent the second group from Myanmar to visit Washington through fellowships from the Nathan foundation. The program began after the United States started to normalize relations with Myanmar and eased economic sanctions against it.