More Thai investors eyeing to enter Myanmar despite concerns

Officials at the Royal Thai Embassy in Yangon say business people from their country will not hesitate to invest in Myanmar’s swiftly expanding economy as it presents immense opportunities despite some concerns.

The fact that the two countries share a 2,400 kilometre-long border presents an opportunity for increased border trade as the launch of the Asean Economic Community next year is expected to improve cooperation between both countries as well as the rest in the 10-member bloc.

“We see signs of improvement in many sectors in Myanmar. Here, the potential is very high thanks to 8.5 real GDP growth rate,” said the commercial affairs counselor at the ministry, Boon Intiratana.

Thai businesses see manufacturing of auto parts, plastics, consumer products, household products, telecommunications, and services including hotels, restaurants and hospitals the most promising sectors in Myanmar, Boon said after the opening ceremony for Thai-Myanmar Business Matching forum at the Ministry of Commerce’s Yangon office on Thursday.

He added that Thai firms are keen to invest in more than 30 industrial zones as well as special economic zones in Myanmar. Among the Thai firms that have discussed investments with the Directorate of Investment and Company Registration, some are interested in setting up factories and offices while many other firms prefer partnerships with local counterparts, he said.

“Thai companies will keep on coming. We still maintain their interest in Dawei SEZ. At the same time, we are also interested to invest in Thilawa SEZ. Now we are studying the costs and opportunities of Thilawa,” Boon said.

He said the main barriers to Thai investment are high land costs, surging rental costs, the investment law and procedures, and poor infrastructure.

The rule of law and more clear procedures will attract Thai businesses to invest in the newly opened economy, he said.

Thai businesses expect to win infrastructure projects from the government as it trying to upgrade infrastructure, he said, adding that the banking industry also offers huge potential.

As Thailand is the second-largest trading partner with Myanmar, awarding licences to Thai banks so that they can operate their activities fully in the country will boost bilateral trade and economic cooperation, he said.

Four Thai Banks – Bangkok Bank, Kasikornbank, Krung Thai Bank, and Siam Commercial Bank – are among the 25 foreign banks vying for a licence to operate in Myanmar. The Licensing Committee will announce which preliminary licences have been approved next month, according to the Central Bank.

“Although we stand in the list after China, we would like to boost bilateral trade to a very large extent. That is why if Thai banks can fully open [their branches], they can support improving bilateral trade. We hope that all our banks can operate their full operations

here,” Boon said.

Tossatis Rodprasert, chief representative of Bangkok Bank’s Yangon Representative Office, said that the entry of foreign banks would boost the nation’s economy.

“The Myanmar economy will grow because every bank will bring the minimum capital of US$75 million into Myanmar [if it is awarded the licence]. So, if foreign banks come, they will bring the customers investing in Myanmar to facilitate the banking system,”

Tossatis said.

Bangkok Bank focuses on investors from Thailand who are keen on doing business in Myanmar. The banker also encouraged Thai business people to study the investment climate of Myanmar.

Myanmar-Thai bilateral trade amounted to US$ 7.82 billion (about Ks 7.62 trillion) last year, up 15 per cent from 2012, according to the Ministry of Commerce. As of June 30, Thai businesses have invested $10.1 billion (Ks 9.85 trillion) in Myanmar, standing as the second largest source of investment in the country after China, according to DICA.


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