The Lord Mayor of London Alan Yarrow will visit Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon from February 15 to 17 with the aim of building bilateral ties and strengthening the City of London’s relationship with a country his office believes is an important Southeast Asian regional partner, according to his office, February 12.
In Myanmar, Mr Yarrow will meet with government ministers as well as the central bank in Nay Pyi Taw, and he will also meet with opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, before giving the closing address at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants workshop on “Global Divergence in Corporate Governance.”
He will also attend a meeting on the development of the financial services sector in Myanmar to further his understanding into the work that is currently going on and to help him identify areas that the London could support existing work or fill a gap. This meeting is to further develop a sustainable and profitable financial services industry.
In the following commentary, the Lord Mayor of London stresses the importance of building ties between London and Myanmar and the need to develop good governance in the business world.
I am delighted to visit this beautiful country in my capacity as Lord Mayor. The role requires me to spend almost one third of my time overseas, visiting the countries with whom Britain holds vital economic ties, but it’s a particular pleasure when those countries are as magnificent and welcoming as here. I hope that my visit will continue the work of my predecessors and help our two countries to form stronger ties and work more closely together – for the benefit of both of us.
There are many areas in which we might work together, including my own areas of expertise which are banking and education, training and qualifications (ETQ). But the opportunities are so broad that I have also brought along a delegation of businesses – each of which are as eager to engage as I am.
One area in which I am particularly keen to see increased collaboration is the development of the accountancy profession. A strong economy rests on a strong accountancy profession, and in turn a strong profession needs an independent and sustainable national professional accountancy body. This leads to better audit and tax regimes and helps to free up funds for greater government investment in infrastructure and public services.
The UK, with a population of about 60 million people, has about 300,000 qualified accountants. Here, in a country with a similar population, accountants are a rather rarer species. I am very pleased therefore that two excellent UK accountancy bodies are actively engaged here. Both the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) are helping to reform and strengthen the accountancy profession, which will improve business reporting standards and accountability. Together we can build the skills of the profession and improve local institutional capacity, encouraging more investment from overseas.
It is also exciting to see the progress that has been made locally on developing a microfinance sector. Demand for microfinance including credit, savings, transfers, and insurance is high, with a 2012 report by the UN Capital Development Fund putting the unmet demand at US$1 billion. A well-run microfinance business in a well-regulated environment represents a socially responsible investment as well as an attractive commercial opportunity; what is more, if strong microfinance companies are given time and support then they can become consumer banks. UK companies are keen to help this happen.
Banking and financial services are crucial aspects of any economy, and it is clear that this is a vibrant time for developments in this country’s banking and capital markets sector. However, the existence of a vibrant insurance market, including the presence of reputable, international players, could help ensure robust governance, protecting investors and consumers. It also creates confidence in the development of the industry as well as the products and services offered to the people. This is especially important given the long-term nature of the insurance business, and the UK is keen to help in every way it can to facilitate the development of the insurance market.
This country is at a crossroads – an exciting moment in which a vast number of opportunities are emerging. British businesses are ready, willing and able to help you grasp these opportunities. But I want to be very clear that this should not be a one way street. Britain is a fantastic inward investment destination and the City of London and the UK are open for business, with a diverse range of opportunities for investment in all kinds of industries. I hope that this visit provides a catalyst for deeper links between our nations, and enables our business communities to reach our economic potential together.