Comparing Myanmar and Australia

By Pete Cooper – November 2020

Some simple rankings so you can get the difference between these two fascinating countries and also the global divide our world faces from someone that knows them both fairly well.

Myanmar and Australia are vastly different countries but actually have a lot in common eg. British and American influence and huge involvement with massive complex neighbours and trading partners like China, India and populous SE Asia.

While this is much more about the rate of change and up and coming nations vs maturing legacy nations, Australia does serve as a useful example of the developed world and Myanmar as a meaningful example of the developing world.

There are many metrics from many different sources so please note these are intended as a guide not precise measures.

Overall Geo Political Context

Myanmar is a developing nation with around 55m people in a large land mass historically focused on agriculture and resources now rapidly leapfrogging or even double leapfrogging developed countries with technology. Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is an emerging democracy which is in the process of putting over 50 years of military rule behind it. More recently leaders been accused of genocide and today it has dozens of armed ethic organisations mainly on border areas. Myanmar shares large borders with China, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Laos and on the ocean with Andaman Sea ( access to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore) and Bay of Bengal (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh). Myanmar is considered part of South East Asia. Myanmar is a major recipient of foreign aid for health, peace and development.

Australia is a developed nation half the size of Myanmar in terms of population with 25m people but around 40-50 times in GDP per capita. Australia is even larger in landmass than Myanmar, Australia is also a continent. It is surrounded by New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Nearby are Singapore and Borneo. Australia is considered the centre of Oceania. Australia is a major contributor to foreign aid although this has declined in recent years and Myanmar remains a major destination for Australian Aid.

Population and Land Mass (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/population-by-country/)

Myanmar 55m is ranked overall as 26th largest country by population, ahead of Kenya and South Korea. Australia with 25m (less half of Myanmar) is 55th globally ahead of Niger, Taiwan and Sri Lanka.

GDP per capita is around 40-50 times higher in Australia and this is also reflected in government spending on services like health, defence, infrastructure and education.

Australia is the 6th largest landmass country on the planet with 7.7m square kms compared to Myanmar at around 1/10th the size with 0.7m square kms which is still very large in relative terms being ranked 38th globally.

Australia’s is relatively remote and larger than all it’s neighbours generally in landmass and economy. Australia is 5x larger in landmass but 1/10th the population (50x less dense) compared to her nearest large neighbour Indonesia (main language Bahasa) just to the North.

Myanmar’s neighbours are generally all larger in population and economy. Myanmar’s largest neighbour China with 1.4 billion people is also just to the North. China is around 25x their population and the main languages are Mandarin and Cantonese and it is 14x larger than Myanmar. Myanmar also has India and Bangladesh to the West and Thailand to the East which are are all high population countries.

Health (https://www.who.int/healthinfo/paper30.pdf)

Myanmar is ranked overall 190th in the world in Health system efficiency, spending around 3.5% of government income. Australia ranks consistently in the top 5-10 for quality and overall health efficiency ranked at 32nd and spending around 18% of government income. The Australian Government and large private sector spends roughly 200x what Myanmar spends in total on Health and around $4,000 per person per annum compared to Myanmar at around $10.

Myanmar started testing for the current pandemic much later than Australia as you would expect due to funding however overall on a per capita basis the numbers are currently very similar on a per capita/per million basis although trends indicate Myanmar is arguably also earlier in the curve due to the connectedness of the economy and overall health resources so it may fare significantly worse although some observers argue there many be regional resistance due to long term interconnectedness with the rest of Asia – this is yet to be proven.

Danger / Peace

Myanmar is ranked the 39th most dangerous country in the world or in reverse terms is the 127th most peaceful compared to Australia which is 13th most peaceful country in the world.

Myanmar has approx. 600% higher homicide rate than Australia while the suicide rate is reversed with Australia 50% to 250% higher varying by year. These statistics are very difficult as Myanmar recording keeping and legal system means data may be incomplete.

Life expectancy (mainly due to health care and diet but also safety) is 12-15 years higher in Australia.

Business & Innovation (https://countryeconomy.com/countries/compare/burma/australia)

Myanmar is one of the worst in the world in terms of places to do business but improving with rapid digitalisation but currently at 171st globally while Australia is consistently in the top 20 but trending down in the longer term.

Australia is ranked 20th for innovation while Myanmar is 130th or lower.

Yangon Tech startups facebook group has over 1,500 members and similar topic groups in adjacent industries are a similar size. Sydney startups is around 21,000 members and growing faster and is around 3x older.

Australia is consistently in the top 10 countries in terms of GDP per capita.

Myanmar has drastically lower retail banking participation rate by individual citizens than Australia (around 1/5th or 1/10th depending on approach). Myanmar has recently see an explosion of digital wallets like KBZPay (with around 10% market penetration in two years) and Wave Money and others. Myanmar is effectively skipping credit cards and potentially also debit cards like Visa/Mastercard and going direct to mobile phone based digital app payments primarily with QR code and P2P transfers using mobile phone numbers. In this regard Myanmar is looking to the future like China whereas Australia looks more like America or Europe.

Immigration & Diversity

Australia is 30% immigrant stock (7m+ people) and rising rapidly. Major language is English. Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Arabic are also spoken and diversity is very high with successive waves of immigration ‘flight to safety’ from all over the world typically after periods of war.

Myanmar is 0.14% (0.074m people) and falling steadily although it is much more connected and has a long history of exchange over centuries with neighbours on all sides.

Australia has approx. 300% higher inbound arrivals for tourism, study, business etc compared to Myanmar.

Australia is a mostly Christian nation that is relatively new with European settlement only two centuries ago on this island continent nation but with an ancient indigenous culture probably many tens of thousands of years and is gradually becoming more diverse and secular. Myanmar is a mainly Theravada Buddhist nation and has ancient connections to Nepal and Sri Lanka in this regard and a long complex history of interaction with many highly diverse neighbouring cultures by land and sea.

City vs. Country

Australia’s largest city is Sydney with around 5m people similar to Yangon the largest in Myanmar, while both are growing Australia is generally Urbanising while Myanmar is de-urbanising overall. Please note city boundary definitions vary.

Australia’s second largest city Melbourne to the South is slightly smaller, slightly younger and arguably slightly more cultural. Myanmar’s second largest city Mandalay to the North is arguably older, has more history and is also slightly smaller.

Both Sydney-Melbourne and Yangon-Mandalay are 1.5 hours flying time and both capital cities are located between these two largest cities in both nations Myanmar and Australia.

Canberra and Nay Pyi Daw are the respective capitals of Australia and Myanmar and are both new cities purpose built for the purpose of being an independent capital.

Energy and Environment

Australia produces approx. 12 times more electricity, 30 times more oil/gas and 20 times more CO2 per capita than Myanmar. Both countries export significant amounts especially to China.

The vast majority 99%+ of Australian homes and business have electricity and resilient power with off grid rare but gaining steadily. Housing is carefully regulated as are energy standards so figures are considered very reliable. Around 30% of Myanmar homes are electrified possibly much less are there are a large number of informal housing developments in some areas and business regulation has remained often informal in the SME sector particularly.

Both nations recently made major commitments to renewable energy especially solar and hydro electric with consideration being given to nuclear power.

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