Myanmar Business Development Index (MBEI) and the Role of Facilitation

Access the MBEI 2020


In Myanmar, even before the current political crisis, it was difficult for local government leaders to evaluate the impact of their governance decisions, compare business performance across regions, or learn best practices. For officials in lower-performing areas, these gaps left them with little guidance on where and how to implement change and few incentives to do better. In 2018, Edmund Malesky, working with The Asia Foundation and UKAID, created the Myanmar Business Environment Index (MBEI), surveying 4,874 businesses in the service and manufacturing industries and gathering other hard data to create a ranking. In 2020, a second wave of surveys was conducted, reaching 5,605 businesses. In addition to standard indicators such as the entry cost for businesses, the ease of land access and security, and the level of informal charges, the MBEI also measures environmental and labor-recruitment factors to provide a holistic image of local economic governance.

The results of the 2018 MBEI were published in 2019 and shared with government officials and the enterprise leaders in Myanmar to help them identify the challenges these businesses faced and potential reforms. A key part of the project was conducting facilitation workshops for bureaucrats in Myanmar townships. Using a randomized control trial (RCT), townships receiving facilitation workshops were exactly the same as those not receiving it. While the surveys showed improvements across all townships, businesses reported substantially higher increases in townships where facilitation workshops had been conducted.

Methods and Results

The MBEI is part of a larger class of Subnational Performance Assessments (SPAs). More specifically, it is one of a growing number of tools known as economic governance indexes (EGIs), a specialized type of subnational assessment used to rank the performance of local authorities and assess local business environments through quantitative indicators. To develop the MBEI, researchers conducted extensive desk research, expert interviews, and focus group discussions to adapt the EGI model to the Myanmar context. To produce final rankings, the research team combined three types of indicators:

  1. Perceptions-based data drawn from a nationally representative survey of firms in all fourteen states/regions
  2. Observational data collected by the research team in visits to township offices to gather information about the availability, quality, and transparency of local government services
  3. Administrative data from published administrative records such as the 2019 census (MOLIP 2019) and government handbooks

Prior to collecting data for the 2020 wave, the researchers organized facilitation workshops to share the results of the 2018 MBEI with government leaders and bureaucrats in 60 randomly selected townships, the primary units responsible for business-government interactions in Myanmar. The goal of the workshops was to address two commonly observed shortcomings: 1) the targeting of subnational performance assessments (SPAs) to constituents or voters rather than bureaucrats themselves and 2) the dominance of unidirectional delivery such as flyers, infographic scores cards, and videos, instead of bidirectional delivery that encourages feedback and understanding of the indexes. Conducted by substantive experts, the workshops focused on

  • Cross-departmental deliberation and feedback
  • Finding agreement on concrete policy solutions for identified problems
  • Setting measurable goals for improvement

The randomized control trial allowed researchers to isolate the impact of facilitation, and the impact was clear. Analyzing MBEI index changes from 2018 to 2020, firms in the control group showed approximately four points improvement on a 100-point scale, while firms in townships where facilitation workshops were conducted exhibited an increase of just under eight points, nearly double. These improvements occurred in less than a year, underscoring the prompt and meaningful outcomes resulting from the workshops.



Myanmar Business Environment Index 2020: Measuring Economic Governance for Private Sector Development

  • Lead Researchers and Authors: Edmund Malesky (Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University), Dean Dulay (doctoral candidate, Duke University), Ville Peltovuori (The Asia Foundation)
  • Core Research Team: Kyaw Thu, Marip Ja Dim, Nyan Win, Phyo Wai Htun, San Yi, Thiri Maung, Ye Wana Hlaing (The Asia Foundation)

"Facilitating Development: How Facilitation Workshops Improve Bureaucratic Performance"

  • Dean Dulay (Singapore Management University) and Edmund Malesky (Duke University)


  • Funded by UK Aid through the DaNa Facility
  • Administered by The Asia Foundation

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Economic Governance, Governance, Corruption, Economic Development, Myanmar, Southeast Asia