The ongoing tender to build portions of Kyaukphyu special economic zone has attracted interest almost entirely from Chinese firms.
Of the total 12 companies that have so far entered bids, 11 are from mainland China and the other one is a local company, according to a businessperson close to the situation.
The Bid Evaluation and Awarding Committee (BEAC) plans to award the tender to build three areas – a deep sea port, a residential area and an industrial park – at the end of February. The tender has been delayed, with a winner originally set to be announced in December.
U Tin Cho, an advisor at Parami Energy Group, said the SEZ should be a corridor for domestic trade flows out to external markets, as it will be the main gateway for market access for businesses in western Myanmar.
“The government should think how the SEZ can profit our country,” he said.
“Unless it does, we might lose our resources without receiving benefits, like in previous projects with Chinese companies.”
Other experts say they still have high hopes for the project, which can provide important trade linkages.
If the projects is to work, it is essential to enforce law and order efficiently, said Daw Tin Tin Htey, former director from the Foreign Economic Relation Department.
“We have to cooperate with both China and India, but there must also be accountability, transparency and responsible businesspeople [at Kyaukphyu SEZ],” she said.
The SEZ was first announced in September 2013. It aimed to be more of a business collaboration than other zones like Thilawa and Dawei, which have involved significant government support.
An SEZ master plan was unveiled in June 2014, with phase one initially targeted to begin in March this year on 19 square kilometres with an initial investment of US$227 million.
Several tenders to together build the first phase have been postponed. The process was initially to be wrapped up by last December, though authorities have since pushed it back to the end of February, claiming they are working hard to get it right.
BEAC joint secretary U Aung Kyaw Than said the final step in the process is extremely sensitive and is being judged by the appropriate committee.
“We are careful about the decision-making process. We don’t want to make nonsense,” he said. U Aung Kyaw Than declined to discuss what firms were being considered at this stage, adding the eventual award winners will be publically displayed.
Parami Energy chief executive Ken Tun said the committee should make sure the project has long-term benefits for Myanmar’s economy rather than making any urgent decision.
“We need to think about the situation in the long term,” he said.
Environmental Impact Assessment department head U Tin Than said environmental and social impact assessments must be completed.
Source: Myanmar Times