“In the last 10 months, the country has lost all of its gains in the last 10 years,” said U Hein Maung, an economist in Myanmar. “The cost of doing business has risen significantly. There is a thriving informal economy associated with drug trafficking, illegal logging, money laundering and other illegal businesses.”
The decline in electricity bills, as well as in tax revenues and international development assistance, cost the regime about a third of the income that the previous government received, he said.
Many government services, such as health care and schools, are barely functioning, and the regime has suspended many long-term programs that depend on government funding, such as infrastructure projects.
“They are in zombie mode,” Mr. Hein Maung said. “They function in a minimally viable manner.”
However, the military is in a better position than the public to resist the downturn.
“The military has its own businesses and banks,” he said. “They can survive even though everything else has collapsed. And they have weapons, of course.
Myanmar’s shadowy opposition government, the Government of National Unity, has called on the population to stop paying for electricity. It said in September that 97 percent of Mandalay and 98 percent of Yangon had done so, at a cost to the regime of $1 billion by then.
Ko Si Thu Aung, 24, who sells vintage clothing online, has not paid his bill in support of the civil disobedience movement since February. But at Christmas, soldiers came to his house and cut the power line. After two days without electricity, he decided he had no choice.