THOUGH MYANMAR is one of the lowest-ranked economies in Asia Pacific region according to the World Bank’s recent report on doing business, the nation maintains its optimism over the inflow of foreign direct investment next year, according to Aung Naing Oo, director-general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and secretary of Myanmar Investment Commission.
He said at a recent press conference that Myanmar would receive more FDI this year, compared to last year when it approved US$6.7 billion (Bt220 billion) in foreign investment.
Within one and a half years after the National League for Democracy government took office, Myanmar approved $11.2 billion foreign investment, and is currently reviewing 13 proposals from foreign enterprises worth $420 million. “In 2011, the first year after the previous Thein Sein administration took office, we started with only US$300 million foreign direct investment. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the last year of the previous government, we received $9 billion in FDI,” he said.
“Obviously, the figures show that we have a lot of rooms for improvement in the coming years. We are striving to create a better business environment here. For example, we are considering holding MIC meetings twice a month so we can review and approve investment proposals faster than ever.”
According to the official, Myanmar has modified the century-old Burma Companies Act, and the new law would be approved by the Parliament soon. He considered practice of the old law as a barrier to score high marks in WB’s Doing Business ranking.
“We still need to modify some old laws governing business operations in the country. We are on the right track for better legislation but it usually takes time to amend a law here. It was impossible to score high marks in such categories as starting a business because we have yet to enact the new companies law,” he said.
He said the enactment of new law would enhance Myanmar’s economy to a large extent.
He does not seem worried about the lower ranking.
“It is like a marathon in which every contestant is making efforts to win the prizes. Obviously, we are doing reforms but so are others. It is all about the performance of respective countries. It makes sense that those who can run faster usually have an opportunity to stand higher than others,” he said.
“Generally, the rankings are based on three main things. Firstly, they usually look at how many procedures are there when starting a business. Secondly, they observe how long it takes to start a business.
Finally, they review how much it costs. Once the new law is enacted, online registration for new businesses will be officially allowed. It will reduce the number of procedures as well as save much time and money. As a result, we may enjoy better ranking next year.”
To him, the recent conflicts in Rakhine State have not yet affected the inflow of FDI. But he warned of potential negative impacts if things get worse.
Aung Naing Oo does not seem worried about international pressures on Myanmar.
Recently, some international organisations planned to postpone their development assistance to Myanmar due to the conflicts. “Whether or not World Bank and other organisations support us, we will continue doing reforms where needed,” he said.
As part of MIC’s efforts to facilitate FDI, both local and foreign companies have been allowed to appoint expatriates in the management level and as technical staff including accountants.
DICA also facilitates the stay permit and visa extension for foreign investors, technicians, and their family members. Yet, investors are liable to notify the commission if an appointed expatriate resigns before or after the employment contract, he said.