Myanmar has strong will to continue reforms, says minister

By Sirivish Toomgum and Inakarin Srilert | Source: ANN
Myanmar has the strong political will and commitment to continue with economic reform and the creation of a favourable investment climate, the country’s deputy minister for national planning and economic development said yesterday.

Set Aung gave the assurance during the “New Perspective on New Myanmar: Shaping Business Leaders for a New Myanmar” seminar, co-hosted by Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, the Thai-Myanmar Association for Friendship and the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration.

He described the neighbouring country as enthusiastic and possessing the political will to constantly move things forward with a focus on creating balanced development across all areas, and not tackling one thing at the expense of others.

Set Aung said that while many laws and regulations had yet to be perfected, the country had a strong will to keep improving them.

However, much more important than the laws and rules themselves is how to enforce them in order to create a favourable investment climate, he said.

Comprehensive development is also needed for further development on both the “hardware” side, such as key infrastructure, and the “software” side, such as the legal framework and related policies, he added.

Set Aung said that in many areas, Myanmar might achieve significant strides, but it could lag behind other regional countries in other areas, depending on each viewer’s perspective. That said, reform is not a one-time event but an ongoing process, he stressed.

Myanmar late last year enacted a new Foreign Investment Law. The country is also developing a Special Economic Zone law, which is expected to be submitted to parliament in June.

During the panel discussion on “New Perspective on Myanmar”, Alfredo Perdiguero, principal economist of the Asiam Development Bank, said that to expand employment opportunities, Myanmar, which relies heavily on natural resources and energy, should also focus on diversifying the economy by promoting investment in many sectors, and manufacturing in particular.

Khine Khine Nwe, joint secretary-general of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, encouraged Thai small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Myanmar and foreign investors should increase collaboration on information exchange and continued related activities to seek out promising business areas in the country, she said.

Damrong Kraikruan, director-general of the East Asian Affairs Department at the Thai Foreign Ministry, said anyone interested in investing in any country, especially in a newly opened economy like Myanmar, should first acquire insightful information and know the limitations and restrictions of venturing into each market.

Moreover, investors should not solely reap benefits from the markets they enter, but should also give something back to them, he added.

In a related matter, the Thailand-Myanmar high-level committee for developing the Dawei special economic zone will convene in May to make conclusions on the progress of the project and the plan to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) as a holding company to manage the projects in the area.

In the next step, Thailand and Myanmar will sign a new memorandum of understanding on the Dawei project development.

Chanvit Amatamatucharti, deputy secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board, said on the sidelines of the seminar that initially Thailand and Myanmar would own 50:50 shares in the holding company.

The holding company has yet to limit the number of countries planning to hold shares, but he is confident that Japan will participate given its strong interest in the Dawei projects.

He added that the holding company would benefit if Japan stepped in.