After the second world war, many Asian countries had to undergo a series of nation-building exercises. Almost all of them were torn apart by war: buildings destroyed and lives extinguished. It took strength, courage and creativity to restore these nations to their former glory and, most importantly, rebuild them better than they were before. Citizens came together for a common cause, to once again have a place to call home.
After half a century of isolation, Myanmar has re-engaged with the international community. A new civilian government came to power and quickly rolled out a series of reforms. International communities have taken an active role in rebuilding Myanmar. I have also seen armies of expats returning to Myanmar, eager to restore their country to its former glory.
Myanmar can become a nation to be reckoned with. For a brief moment after it claimed independence from the British in 1947, it was a modern nation in South-East Asia. It had the best universities, airports and cities. Through a series of misfortunes, however, it became one of the least developed nations in the world. Recent developments have given me hope that we can realize our vision for Myanmar, which includes inclusivity, harmony and freedom for all the nation’s people.
Myanmar nationals should be able to benefit from this transformation and development; inclusivity is key. We need to ensure everyone has access to basic financial services, for example. We will build a nation where people are united together as the people of Myanmar, regardless of their ethnicities. We are one people under one nation; united regardless of our religion or gender. We will need to ensure that we put aside our differences and rebuild our nation in a form of utopia that we have long dreamed of.
I believe there is a need for harmony in the way we develop our country. We should take great care to not destroy our national heritage and natural resources. We must leave a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren. We must learn to build our future without destroying our past. Myanmar is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, but we must protect the environment for the sake of future generations. Developing a proper nation-building strategy, which strikes a balance between modernizing and preserving our heritage, will be tough, but I believe we can achieve it.
Most importantly, I believe we must be free to chart our own destiny. The people of Myanmar should have the right to determine what is best for them. People should be allowed to follow their dreams no matter how preposterous they seem to others. All of us dream of the same thing: the freedom to pursue our own happiness. There is no difference between a little boy who grew up in the hilly regions of Upper Myanmar and a little girl who grew up a rich neighbourhood in Yangon City. We must create a nation that provides equal opportunities for everyone.
In order to realize our dream for Myanmar, we must focus on three things; capacity building; foreign direct investment; and national reconciliations. We need to improve education so that we will have capable people to lead our nation. In terms of technical expertise, we need to improve in all sectors. Most importantly, we need to install a strong sense of patriotism and nationalism. The most important asset a country can count on is its people; we need to equip them with the right skillsets and attitude to thrive.
Next, we need foreign direct investment (FDI). Myanmar needs to put together a strategy to make sure we encourage socially responsible investors whose activities are beneficial to our people. FDI needs to help us develop sustainably, building our capacity while preserving our environment. Only then will we be making Myanmar a better place for future generations.
Most importantly, national reconciliation must take place. In order to move forward, we must come together and put aside our differences, no matter what they are. The stars have been aligned lately, and there have been positive developments in Myanmar. The new civilian government has taken over, the opposition party is running for elections, and our ethnic leaders are taking part in discussions for peace. We must maintain this momentum and not give up on our dream.
Author: Aung Ko Win, Chairman of Kanbawza Bank Limited, Myanmar
Image: Passengers look out the windows of a bus as they travel around Yangon, Myanmar, July 3, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun