Development and Urbanization
The 2008 Constitution set forth that « Every citizen shall have the right to settle and reside in any place within the Republic of the Union of Myanmar according to law ». Since the political and economic reforms that began in 2010 started to gather steam, more and more people have been exercising this right by migrating to cities with Yangon being the most popular destination. Yangon is beyond doubt the driving engine of growth for this country in its new era of induction into the global economy. But Yangon is struggling to support so many new residents so quickly, and government authorities are far from granting any legitimacy to informal settlements- which are receiving the largest numbers of migrants, and the city’s original residents are not keen to accept them either. This paper examines two informal settlement locations –the periphery of the city and the other located in the area between the Central Business District and the periphery. These two locations are compared in terms of employment opportunities, commuting time, supply of basic urban services, access to health care, social cohesion and problems of debt and crime. The paper examines a central conundrum facing Yangon today: can orderly, controlled urban growth be achieved while also assimilating the many newcomers in ways that respect their right to mobility and need for basic services? This paper relies upon the author’s own household surveys and field research in addition to recent scholarship on the subject to elucidate this question in light of the vital role these newcomers play in the overall economy and functioning of this burgeoning city.