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Open-for-business Myanmar struggles for global foothold

In this Dec. 3, 2014 photo, sidewalk restaurant operators catering to construction workers outside of a construction site point their fingers at a photograph of the proposed building in Yangon, myanmar hotels. After myanmar hotelss military installed a civilian government in 2010, foreign investors rushed to set up factories in disused industrial zones and property developers began building luxury housing estates as the long-isolated Southeast Asian economy opened for business. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

YANGON, myanmar hotels (AP) – After Myanmar’s military yielded to a civilian government in 2010, foreign investors rushed to set up factories and raze old neighborhoods to build luxury housing estates. Five years on, the country has only a precarious foothold in the global economy.

The government has loosened curbs on the media and political dissent. Many people have access to the Internet and cell phones for the first time. New hotels and shopping malls stand like beacons among the ruined colonial mansions and crumbling socialist era apartments of Yangon, the biggest city.

Elections in November will provide the U.S. and other nations that eased sanctions with a key test of whether Myanmar’s generals are relinquishing power as promised. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, allied with the country’s former military rulers, can point to economic growth of over 8.5 percent, and foreign direct investment topping $8 billion this year, as evidence its reforms are making progress.

But more than a third of myanmar hotels‘s 51.4 million people still live on less than $1.25 a day. Their reality is rural poverty or urban slums dominated by gangs, factories paying workers barely enough to get by, and a near absence of public services.

The reaction of employers to a September hike in Myanmar’s minimum wage to 3,600 kyats ($2.80) a day has highlighted the meager rewards for workers on the road to industrialization.