Myanmar government finance chiefs have urged to foreign businesses to capitalise on the opportunities now in the country.
At an event at the Novotel Yangon on March 18, Finance and Planning Minister Kyaw Win said the country was on the right track to secure a stronger future for both domestic and foreign businesses.
He said factors that were stunting growth included illegal trade, lacklustre loan options and monopolies as well as the general chaotic growth of business hubs like Yangon.
Kyaw Win said the time for progress had come.
“I invited many foreign businesses to say that new investment laws would soon be enacted with transparency, and offering fair ways to invest. An attractive investment environment has taken shape. We assure you that the government will be supporting both domestic and foreign investors in their endeavours: 2018 and 2019 will be when Myanmar will truly sprint ahead economically,” said Kyaw Win.
Director-general of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) and secretary of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) Aung Naing Oo said: “Our projection was to obtain around US$6 billion of FDI [foreign direct investment] and according to our records the MIC had already approved around US$6.8 billion.”
He said that efforts to diversify foreign investments to move away from labour-intensive industries to skill-intensive sectors had been bearing fruit.
“The biggest investments used to go to the oil and gas sector with 32 per cent, followed by electric power generation and the third was telecommunications with 11 per cent, followed by manufacturing and real estate,” Aung Naing Oo said.
Last year, there was a lot of investment in the telecom, real estate and manufacturing sectors. So, oil and gas has now dropped to 25 per cent, mining from 8 per cent to 1 per cent, while the manufacturing sector has improved substantially from 5 per cent to 18 per cent, which is a remarkable achievement for us. The telecoms sector is now at 23 per cent from 1 per cent while real estate went up to 8 per cent from 3 per cent,” said the director-general.
He said the government was now pushing for the country’s human-resource pool to become more skilled which meant that more diversification in FDI was bound to occur.
“Ever since the government took office, we have been pursuing reforms, especially policy reforms. One key process is decentralisation,” said Aung Naing Oo.
More foreign investment is expected after April when Parliament passes new investment laws that will allow foreigners to own up to 35 per cent equity in domestic firms, to be eligible for tax incentives without going through the Myanmar Investment Commission and to allow foreign companies to purchase stocks from the fledgling Yangon Stock Exchange.
Aung Naing Oo said that the authorities would be looking for more responsible business owners in the coming years in light of the new investment laws.
“Our ultimate objective with the new investment laws is to create responsible businesses. We will focus more on having better-quality investment in Myanmar. We will also be protecting investors and their investments and supporting according to international standards.”
National Security Adviser Thaung Tun highlighted the importance of the economy and peace process to each other with each depending on the other for growth.
He stressed that peace and stability was necessary to exploit the nation’s “immense opportunities”.
He said despite Rakhine State’s rich resources, it was plunged into chaos by ethnic and religious conflict, largely due to crushing poverty.
Thaung Tun told the event: “We must ensure that economic development goes hand in hand with our efforts to forge a lasting peace. It is this government’s firm belief that without peace, security and stability, Myanmar will not be able to move forward to genuine democracy with shared prosperity for all.
“By creating jobs and opportunities and developing skills and social enterprises, the private sector can create shared prosperity and help contribute to long-term development and stability. I am confident that we can work together to build a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future,” said Thaung Tun.