What Is the MMK (Myanmar Kyat)?

The MMK (Myanmar Kyat) is the national currency of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. One kyat subdivides into 100 pyas. However, a pya represents such a small amount of money that it is infrequently used. In writing, the symbol "K" represents the currency.

The currency floats against the U.S. dollar (USD). In September 2020, one U.S. dollar (USD) is equal to 1,317.87 MMK. ​​​​​

Key Takeaways

  • The MMK (Myanmar Kyat) is the national currency of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
  • In September 2020, one U.S. dollar (USD) is equal to 1,317.87 MMK. ​​​​​
  • The circulation and issuance of Myanmar Kyat (MMK) are managed solely by the Central Bank of Myanmar, the country’s official central bank.
  • Years of government corruption, mismanagement, and isolation have made Myanmar one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.

Understanding the MMK (Myanmar Kyat)

Today, the circulation and issuance of Myanmar Kyat (MMK) is managed solely by the Central Bank of Myanmar, the country’s official central bank. The first issue of kyat was in use between 1852 and 1889. This issue had both silver and gold coins. During annexation by Britain between 1824 and 1948, the country used the Indian rupee (INR), except during the time Japan occupied them during the Second World War. The occupation currency circulated by the Japanese became worthless in 1945, and the country reintroduced the rupee. The kyat, in use today, began circulation in 1952 with replacement at par with the rupee.

In 1948, the Union Bank of Burma acted as the central bank. The Union Bank formed when it assumed the Yangon branches of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). However, the bank did not take on the responsibility of issuing currency until 1952. The Myanmar kyat has dominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, and 10,000 kyats. Coins have 5, 10, 50, and 100 kyat dominations.

In 1962, the government nationalized and merged all of the country's banks into one entity, as it transitioned the country into a socialist monetary system. By 1988, the country’s economic system transitioned back into a market-based system, and the name of the central bank changed to the Central Bank of Myanmar. The bank set about stabilizing domestic prices and preserving the value of the MMK internationally.

Measures from the central bank hope to curtail the black market exchange of kyats. Initially, they required tourists to purchase at least $200 of kyats with any exchange. That policy ended in March 2013. Official exchange rates for the MMK have sometimes varied greatly from the currency’s exchange rate on the black market.

Special Considerations

Economy of Myanmar

Years of government corruption, mismanagement, and isolation have made Myanmar one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The Republic's economy depends mainly on petroleum production. Myanmar opium production ranks second largest in the world, and there is an active market in illegal drugs.

In 2014, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development named the country among the least developed in the world. This designation comes with tariff reduction and access to the markets of developed countries’ markets. Nations may graduate from this list by meeting specific requirements, including creating higher standards of living for its citizens.

The U.S. and the European Union had set trade sanctions on the country due to concerns over human rights. President Obama lifted these sanctions in 2016 to encourage continued steps to improve conditions in the country. The penalties were due to global scrutiny for persecution and the alleged genocide against Rohingya Muslims. 

According to the 2019 World Bank data, Myanmar experiences an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.4% with a yearly inflation deflator of 5.4%.

History of MMK (Myanmar Kyat)

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, was once known as Burma. In 1989, the government changed the country’s name to Myanmar. However, the adjective Burmese still is used to describe people and things from Myanmar. 

Early city-states unified into kingdoms which would fragment and reform before eventually consolidating under the Konbaung rule in the 18th century. In 1824, Britain claimed control of the region and a large influx of Indian workers and soldiers moved into the country. The Burmese resented the British and Indian control over their land and culture and riots were frequent. The country was a major battlefield during the Second World War and the sight of many brutal battles.

In 1948, the country became an independent republic under the name the Union of Burma. A military coup took control of the government in 1962 and continued in power until 2011. Nationalization of businesses, the media, production, and finance followed a Soviet-styled pattern. Government forces violently repressed any opposition. However, unrest continued and in 1990 free elections were allowed, but the military refused to give up power. 

By 2007, inflation led to the Saffron Revolution, led by Buddhist monk began, but was put down with force. This brutality brought international condemnation. A series of civil wars and revolts followed as the power of the military-backed government faltered and dissolved in 2011. Since that time, Myanmar has moved towards a system of parliamentary representation.