Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines.
HONG KONG — President Thein Sein of Myanmar announced a “second wave of reforms” on Tuesday that are aimed at rolling back decades of state control over the country’s sheltered and dysfunctional economy.
The changes seek to improve “public welfare,” he said in a nationally televised address.
Mr. Thein Sein has focused his 15 months in power on political reconciliation, including peace talks with ethnic minorities and détente with the democracy movement led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But very few tangible changes have been made to the country’s economy, which has stagnated for decades despite the dynamism of neighboring countries like China and Thailand.
On Tuesday, Mr. Thein Sein vowed to reduce the state’s role in an ambitious list of sectors: education, electricity, energy, forestry, health care, finance and telecommunications.
Largely because of state monopolies and control, mobile phones remain prohibitively expensive for the majority of the country’s 55 million people, and the banking system, largely based on cash transactions, is primitive. There is no lending for terms longer than one year and no home mortgages, according to Sean Turnell, an expert on Myanmar’s economy at Macquarie University in Sydney.
“Economic reform has really lagged political reform,” Mr. Turnell said. The program announced Tuesday may help to “convince the average person that they will benefit,” he said.
Mr. Turnell, who recently returned from Myanmar with an Australian business delegation, said the government should seek to avoid the pitfalls of the Arab Spring, in which “there was no dividend for the average person.”
Two years ago, when the country was still run by a military junta, Myanmar secretly privatized industries and sold off state property, a process that benefited tycoons and other people linked to the military.
The public announcement by Mr. Thein Sein on Tuesday suggests a more open procedure for the wider category of assets under consideration. A foreign investment law will be passed during the next session of Parliament, due to begin next month, Mr. Thein Sein said.
The government’s reforms over the past year, including freedom for hundreds of political prisoners, the loosening of controls over the media and gestures of reconciliation toward Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, have persuaded Western countries to suspend or rescind some of the most punitive sanctions imposed on the country. Australia has lifted all of its sanctions, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently encouraged U.S. companies to invest.
Icons of U.S. capitalism like Coca-Cola and General Electric have announced plans to set up offices in Myanmar and do business in the country.
While shifting his focus toward the economy, Mr. Thein Sein said he would continue to work on “national reconciliation, national peace and stability and the rule of law, and the safety of the public.”
The government has signed cease-fire agreements with a handful of ethnic groups, but a comprehensive peace still remains elusive. Fighting continues between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels along the border with China, and sectarian riots have killed 50 people and displaced about 30,000 in western Myanmar along the border with Bangladesh.
A court in the state of Rakhine, where the sectarian fighting has taken place, sentenced two Muslim men to death Monday for the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, an event that appeared to have incited the violence. A week after the woman was murdered, a Buddhist mob dragged 10 Muslim men off a bus and killed them. A state of emergency remains in effect in Rakhine.