Australia’s business know how could boost Myanmar

AUSTRALIA’S expertise in agriculture, mining and education is seen playing a key role in Myanmar once Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League Democracy (NLD) takes power next year.

MACQUARIE University academic Sean Turnell, an informal advisor to the NLD leadership, says agricultural reform will be a key priority once the government takes power early next year.

“Australia has a real lot to contribute now. In a sense Australia’s greatest expertise is agriculture (and) agriculture is likely to be a real priority,” Turnell told AAP.

“One could imagine Australian advice on that front could become quite significant,” he said.

Some 70 per cent of Myanmar’s 54 million population still make a living from the rural sector.

Many face high levels of debt. But as part of reforms Myanmar’s agriculture bank will be able to provide more credit in the rural sector.

Australia has assisted Myanmar in the drafting of a new mining law, but the legislation has remained bogged down in the parliament.

Turnell expects the legislation to pass once the new government is in place.

“I think (this) will accelerate. So in both those areas, agriculture and mining we’re likely to see much greater Australian involvement,” he said.

But Turnell also warns of possible conflicts and landlessness as well as “land grabbing” by investors.

Some $US8 billion ($A11 billion) in foreign investment has flowed into the country, with economic growth at eight per cent.

But Australian Eugene Quah, chief executive officer of Yangon-based education and training company, Edulink, says boosting education is crucial after years of neglect of military rule.

“One of the very big challenges that industry and commerce faces here is the skills shortage,” Quah told AAP.
“It’s very difficult and expensive to find and retain skilled staff.”

Quah is a senior member of the recently formed Australian business group in Myanmar, now with more than 100 members.

Major Australian companies hoping to ride the economic boon in Myanmar include ANZ Bank, Bluescope, Meinhardt, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp and Woodside Petroleum.

Quah is optimistic over the outlook for 2016.

“I feel very positive about (the outlook) and I think many other others do also,” he said.

Source: The Advertiser

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