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Myanmar Moves Up in Income Bracket

Myanmar – along with Bangladesh, Kenya and Tajikistan – has become a lower-middle income country due to improved economic performance, according to the World Bank’s latest estimates of Gross National Income per capita (GNI).

Myanmar now joins a group of 51 countries with annual incomes between $1,046 and $4,125, with a GNI of $1,270.

Each year on July 1, the World Bank revises the income classification of the world's economies based on estimates of GNI per capita for the previous year.

“Our latest data show that in terms of this indicator, the world’s economic geography has changed a lot. In 1994, 56.1 percent of the world’s population – 3.1 billion people – lived in the 64 low-income countries. In 2014, this was down to 8.5 percent, or 613 million people, living in 31 countries. It is heartening to see that over the last one year itself four nations crossed over that critical line from the low-income to the lower-middle income category,” Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, said.

Mongolia and Paraguay moved from lower middle-income status to upper middle-income, a group with yearly income levels of $4,126 to $12,735.

Beset by civil war and a national oil industry at a standstill, South Sudan has fallen out of the lower middle-income classification and back into low-income status, where average per capita incomes are $1,045 or less.

The new GNI per capita rankings show that Maldives and Mongolia were the highest movers in the rankings – up 13 and 8 places, respectively. Oman and Timor-Leste fell most from their 2013 ranking – down 15 places for both.

People living in low-income countries continue to fall behind those in the upper per capita GNI brackets, while they earn and consume significantly less than much of the world’s population. 

Malawi has the world’s lowest reported GNI per capita at $250, while Monaco has the highest, at more than $100,000 – more than 400 times more per person on average than Malawi. In 1990, Malawi’s GNI per capita was $180 – in 24 years its average per-capita income has increased by just $70. In the same period Norway, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, has seen its per capita income increase from $26,010 to $103,050, an increase of $77,040.

Among Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam showed remarkable progress. In 1990, Vietnam was a low-income country at the bottom of the rankings, with a GNI per capita of $130. Today, the country is reliably lower-middle income, with a GNI per capita of $1,890 – moving up more than 50 places in the rankings over the last 25 years.

The new World Bank figures also show that Argentina, Hungary, Seychelles, and Venezuela have now moved from the upper middle income category to high income, with average per capita income levels now of $12,736 or more.

Gross National Income (GNI) is a broad-based measure of income generated by a nation’s residents from international and domestic activity. GNI per capita measures the average amount of resources available to persons residing in a given economy, and reflects the average economic well-being of a population.

“While we need to measure development progress in different ways, income-based measures, such as GNI, remain the central yardstick for assessing economic performance,” Basu said.

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