Is Myanmar Finally Going Metric?
Ian Wright posted on July 27, 2017 |
Countries still using the Imperial system of weights and measures are shown in red. (Image courtesy of Mental Floss.)
Countries still using the Imperial system of weights and measures are shown in red. (Image courtesy of Mental Floss.)
Of the 196 countries on Earth, only three still use the Imperial system of weights and measures:
  • Liberia
  • Myanmar
  • United States of America

However, that list may soon be getting even shorter, based on reports that Myanmar is currently developing a metrology bill that would establish an official system of standard measurement units for the country.

Coconuts, a news site focusing on events in Southeast Asia, noted that Myanmar’s deputy education minister, Win Maw Htun, did not say whether the new system would be metric or imperial. However, the deputy minister did indicate that the law would include a provision for establishing a national metrology laboratory.

So, why think that Myanmar is going metric?

For one, it’s an idea the country has toyed with before. In 2013, deputy minister for commerce Pwit San suggested that Myanmar was preparing to adopt the metric system. Although the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology was tasked with making it official, that announcement never came. Why?

Although it moved up to medium ranking on the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) this year, the state of affairs in Myanmar is far from rosy. The 2015 Kokang offensive continued what has been called the world’s longest civil war, which began in 1948 shortly after the country’s official independence from the United Kingdom.

On the less volatile side of things, Myanmar also saw a change in government between 2013 and today. The original announcement that the country would be adopting the metric system came when the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was in power. However, the USDP was ousted by the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the last general election in 2015.

Market stall in Bagan, Myanmar.
Market stall in Bagan, Myanmar.

As we’re all too aware in the West, a change in government inevitably leads to changes in policy and priorities. Of course, trade is always a high priority, which is another reason to think that Myanmar will likely adopt the metric system.

Myanmar’s largest trading partners are China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Germany and Hong Kong. Although U.S. trade relations with the country have substantially improved due to the recent lifting of sanctions, they’re still dwarfed by those of Myanmar’s largest partners, all of whom operate on the metric system.

It’s worth noting that Liberia, the other metric holdout, did establish diplomatic ties with Myanmar earlier this year, but it would be surprising if that tipped the scales when it comes to standardizing on measurement.

So, with Myanmar looking like it’s going to join the other 193 countries using the metric system, one can’t help but wonder how long it will be until everyone’s on board.

Will the U.S. ever adopt the metric system? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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