INFRASTRUCTURE, ICT, agriculture and processing, manufacturing and tourism are highlighted as the most attractive sectors for Thai investors looking to establish a presence in Myanmar.
At a seminar hosted yesterday by Bangkok Bank, Nattawin Pongpetrarat, vice chairman of the Thai Business Association of Myanmar, said a large number of infrastructure projects ranging from roads to ports to postal services were planned in Myanmar thanks to financial assistance from foreign donor countries.
Because of poor road infrastructure and a shortage of skilled labour, many companies are investing hugely in information and communications technology (ICT), promising potential for e-commerce and online services.
Nattawin also anticipates demand for expertise from Thai companies in agriculture and agricultural processing, as the agricultural sector is one of the top 10 contributors to the Myanmar economy.
Labour-intensive manufacturing businesses should also benefit from the low labour costs as well as the abundant number of workers. Benefiting from this will be those relying on high local content, as importing raw materials could take about a month aside from extra time needed for their transportation from ports to factories.
Concurrently, they should consider capacity-building schemes for the workers and be reminded of the poor electricity supply and the poor conditions of ports and roads, he said.
On tourism, as more than 20 of the 45 daily flights served by Yangon International Airport are from Thailand, Thai companies in the sector should consider excursion services for those travelling to Myanmar.
“Thai companies should capitalise on their expertise. Combined with local experiences, they will prosper,” said Nattawin, who has operated a furniture and garment business in Myanmar for more than 10 years.
He stressed that Thai companies need local partners. At a time when Myanmar has witnessed an influx of investment from more than 40 countries, Thai businesses with local partners will have an advantage over others in terms of market insights.
“The Myanmar economy is very dynamic. The conditions change rapidly and it is necessary to have someone on the ground to point us in the right direction.”
In her opening speech at the seminar, Thai Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn highlighted local people’s trust as well as the country’s continued dependence on imports.
Sanan Angubonkul, head of the Thai government’s private-sector team tasked with boosting exports and overseas investment projects, said: “To satisfy domestic consumption, nothing is better than setting up factories in Myanmar and supplying the products for the market.
“As a plus, the United States’ reinstatement of its Generalised System of Preferences for Myanmar would also benefit their exports.”
Still, he warned that losses were likely unavoidable for the first three years, but if these investors can hold on, the prospects after that would be bright, as “Myanmar is darling of the world.”
The seminar is part of a public-private collaboration to boost Thailand’s direct investment, particularly in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.