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Economy

On the buses in Yangon, problems reflect transition issues

Transport 'revolution' raises challenges about Aung San Suu Kyi's modernization agenda

| Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos
Yangon's traffic is becoming increasingly congested as more new cars are bought and as taxis proliferate (Photo by Simon Roughneen)

After the excitement of Myanmar's 2015 general election, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a sweeping victory, the fledgling government stepped up efforts to transform Myanmar from autocratic military rule to democratic accountability. At the grass roots, a good test of the NLD's ability to transform the lives of ordinary people is taking place on the streets of Yangon, the former capital once known as Rangoon.

Amid chaotic and increasingly unmanageable traffic congestion, the NLD-controlled regional government launched an audacious public transport upheaval that streamlined 350 heavily used bus routes into just 60. Although the change is apolitical, it is an important test for Myanmar's transition -- a momentous transformation that requires public participation and acceptance. Success would set a precedent for bolder political upheavals, but failure could see Myanmar caught in a trap in which the difficulties of progressive change are seen to outweigh the benefits.

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