The World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013 is setting a new record for participation, with more than 1,000 senior leaders from more than 50 countries having confirmed their attendance, reflecting the immense interest of the international community in rece
“That is a clear indication of the tremendous interest for leaders from all walks of life to contribute to discussions that will shape how Myanmar’s opening to the world and ongoing reform process can be based on equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth,” wrote Sushant Palakurthi Rao, Asia head of WEF, in reply to questions from The Nation.
Last year's event in Bangkok drew about 630 participants.
The anticipated record participation of leaders from academia, business, civil society, government and international organisations at the 22nd WEF on East Asia, and the first to be held in Myanmar, is a success for the Geneva-headquartered organisation, but it has to wade through a number of challenges. The forum takes place from June 5-7.
Rao acknowledged that accessibility to Nay Pyi Taw as well as accommodation for participants were initial challenges.
Located 391 kilometres north of Yangon, reaching the capital by car can take up to four hours, while half-hour flights to the newly opened international airport are rare. As recently as last year, there were few decent hotels. “But with the full support of the government, we have ensured enhanced air connectivity to Nay Pyi Taw as well as a sufficient number of hotel rooms,” Rao said.
Hosting the WEF on East Asia 2013 shows Myanmar’s readiness to open its doors to global communities. “As the host of the 2013 South East Asia Games and the 2014 chair of Asean, Myanmar will see a significant rise of large-scale international events in the coming months,” Rao said.
“Therefore, the doors to Myanmar are open, but accelerating investments and improvements in infrastructure will be critical to keep pace with this significant rise of visitors. More importantly, improved infrastructure benefits the people of Myanmar.”
Aside from global communities, next week’s forum is expected to secure participation from local businesspeople. The chief executives of some of Myanmar’s top companies will participate in the event and in some cases also contribute to sessions of the programme.
“Our goal is to demonstrate very explicitly through the deliberations of the meeting the commitment of all stakeholders – both from the region and globally – to leveraging investment towards responsible and inclusive growth both in Myanmar and in Asean. The foremost priority of the meeting is to emphasise the importance of inclusion,” Rao said.
“Only by coming together and having frank discussions is it possible to build trust and an understanding on how key social and economic development challenges such as creating jobs, improving education, ensuring better healthcare and enhancing regional connectivity can be addressed,” he concluded.
Secluded from the world for more than five decades, Myanmar is among the poorest countries in the world. To win global trust, while in the US this month, Myanmar President Thein Sein promised further liberalisation in political and economic fronts.
At the forum, the president will share his perspectives on Myanmar’s transformation as well as opportunities and challenges of regional integration. Aung San Suu Kyi, chairwoman of the National League for Democracy and an MP, will also be among the speakers, in two sessions: “Myanmar: What Future?” and “Taking Myanmar to Work”.
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