Foreign investors are being wooed to invest more in Myanmar to take advantage of the country’s Asean membership and geographic location, which should enhance its attractiveness after the election in November.
“By the end of this year, the Asean Economic Community will be launched. That means our market will be tenfold bigger. We are also the only Asean country located between China and India, two giant economies.
“Don’t look at Myanmar as a small country. Instead, consider Myanmar as a regional hub,” Professor Aung Tun Thet, presidential economic adviser and vice chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, said yesterday.
At the “Euromoney Myanmar Global Investment Forum”, he urged investors to look beyond the domestic market with some 50 million people to the regional market of more than 600 million people.
While saying that the Myanmar economy has opened up and reintegrated with the regional and global community in the past six years, he quashed lingering fears among foreign investors on political uncertainties, as Myanmar is hosting its first democratic election in decades.
The future political landscape will lay a more solid foundation for foreign investment, he said.
“You cannot cross the sea by staring at the water. Just cross the sea, as there will be no U-turn for Myanmar.”
As a member of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), which oversees foreign investment, he said efforts were in place to make doing business in the country easier and help Myanmar regain its position as a key economic location.
“In the past, it took two months to get a licence from MIC. Now we have reduced the duration to two days and also plan to cut it down to two hours,” he said.
Yet as Myanmar strives to be a socially inclusive society, foreign investment is expected to benefit the country in four areas – financing, market, technology and management – and take corporate social responsibility (CSR) into serious consideration, he said.
All foreign ventures must commit to spending 1-5 per cent of profits on CSR and be members of the United Nations Global Compact, which emphasises human rights, labour rights, the environment and anti-corruption.
Aung Thun Tun Thet is proud that there are more than 200 UNGC members in the country, the highest in Asean. The country also aims to become a global leader in the very near future in this regard.
At the event, Kobsak Pootrakool, Bangkok Bank’s executive vice president for international banking, said that despite political concerns, the outlook was bright.
“Political stability and economic prospects are two different things. In Thailand, we faced a lot of political instability in the past few years. But it did not harm our economic progress.
“The key thing is the private sector. Let the private sector drive the economy. That will bring further development to Myanmar,” he said.
No matter who leads the country, the country should proceed with economic development momentum and address challenges, which include infrastructure, and property prices. Increasing the government sector’s capacity is a priority, he said.
“Yangon [is becoming] more and more congested. The costs of land, labour and housing are also rising. If the government cannot address these challenges now, they will be very difficult to control in the next three years,” he said.
Ken Tun, chief executive officer of Yangon-based Parami Energy, said the agricultural sector needed to be strengthened, while a mechanism to support the migration of the workforce from the sector to manufacturing should be in place.