Foreign investors will be allowed to team up with local partners to finance private hospitals, clinics and laboratories, the Ministry of Health says.
The decision reverses longstanding restrictions on foreign investment in medical facilities but will not come into effect until changes are introduced to Foreign Investment Law rules.
Dr Moe Khine, deputy director for medical care in the Health Department, said last week that the ministry would support applications from prospective foreign investors but they would also have to get a licence from the Myanmar Investment Commission.
“[Foreign investors] can apply for permission to the ministry by getting their local partner to submit an application to a township health office,” Dr Moe Khine said. “But the main point is they need to have an MIC business licence.”
The previous law governing Foreign direct investment, issued in 1988 did not allow investment in the health sector, according to U Tin Myint from Peace Law Firm.
The Health Department said Yangon’s Parami hospital and Thai investors has already applied for permission to enter into a joint investment agreement, but the MIC had so far refused to issue licences.
A spokesperson for the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration said no licences would be issued to foreign firms applying to invest in the health services sector until a review of Foreign Investment Law rules is completed.
“Some investors are applying to invest in health services but we will not authorise them until the government’s Foreign Investment Law rule changes are announced,” said DICA director Daw San San Myint.
The rule changes are expected to be issued at the end of July and could limit or reduce the types of businesses in which foreign investors can engage, sources say.
However, the existing rules, issued as a notification on January 31, 2013, do not specifically restrict investment in health services, including hospitals and clinics. Rather, they state that the investor “must obtain and comply with guidance from the Ministry of Health”.
One official who requested anonymity said the present rules on investment were rushed, with officials told to complete the rules within 90 days of finishing the FDI law, requiring negotiations between different ministries.
But Ministry of Health officials said they are confident that investment will soon be allowed. The chance for foreign firms to invest in Myanmar hospitals could benefit the companies and improve care for patients, said Dr Ba Shwe, vice chair of the hospital administration association under the Myanmar Medical Association.
Currently, many wealthy Myanmar people travel abroad to receive care, but the introduction of international-level hospitals inside the country could save patients time and money by offering quality services closer to home, and provide job opportunities and improved training for healthcare workers.
Investing in hospitals could also allow foreign firms to extend their reach in other healthcare-related industries, he said.
MIC official U Kyaw Swar Soe said the commission has not yet received an application for foreign investment.
However, The Bangkok Post reported recently that Thai property tycoon Boon Vanasin has signed a US$165 million deal to build three hospitals in Myanmar over five years, including one with Myanmar’s Aung Shwe Three (AST) International Group. AST officials declined to comment when contacted by The Myanmar Times last week.
Source: MYANMAR TIMES