Little Joy Soldiers
Property Report|August - September 2021
Real estate sales offices are reopening in Yangon, but banking problems, low confidence and oversupply mean a bleak outlook as the army seeks to entrench rule
Steve Finch

When Myanmar began registering an uptick in Covid-19 cases a year ago, real estate agents and developers in Yangon began virtual sales events on Facebook and Zoom to sell homes and apartments.

Following a decade of democratic and economic reforms, internet usage had soared from just 0.3% of the population becoming commonplace everywhere. With faster internet speeds expediating these online events, it looked as though the residential sector had a solid lifeline to cling to.

In the weeks following February’s coup, the military routinely cut internet access across the whole country to stem organized dissent. But economic activity had all but ground to a halt in Yangon anyway. Most shops were shuttered for weeks amid street protests and a violent military crackdown. Strikes spread across different sectors and cities, and construction sites lay dormant as realtors ceased sales.

“If you look around the city, normal life is returning. Many shops have reopened,” says Karlo Pobre, managing director of Colliers International Myanmar in Yangon. “But many sales galleries remain closed.”

Following the military takeover, Myanmar’s economic problems have multiplied with major knock-on effects for real estate. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank forecast a 10% retraction in economic activity in Myanmar for 2021, the direst projections on record for the country and by far the worst in East Asia for this year.

Dire news indeed, but it’s a figure deemed optimistic by many independent analysts who have projected the GDP to plummet as much as 20%. The recent coup would “irreparably tarnish” Myanmar’s once-promising growth path, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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