Create Jobs in Myanmar, Suu Kyi Tells Japan Inc.

TOKYO — Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi urged Japanese business leaders Friday to invest in the Southeast Asian nation in ways that will create jobs.

Myanmar’s youth have few employment opportunities, making economic growth difficult, the state counselor said during a meeting in Tokyo with officials from groups such as the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren.

Suu Kyi noted that businesses have many opportunities to help develop infrastructure such as power plants.

Foreign investment in Myanmar has been rising since former President Thein Sein took office in 2011. But much of that has come from Chinese and Thai companies involved in resource development, which spurs only limited job growth and brings little new technology into the country.

The recent slack in oil and gas markets is causing even this investment to wane, which means luring significant job creators such as manufacturers has become particularly pressing.

The Thilawa Special Economic Zone, a joint development by Japanese businesses and the governments in Tokyo and Naypyitaw, has been a strong start to such efforts since opening in September 2015. The area is Myanmar’s first state-of-the-art industrial zone, fully equipped with utilities such as power and water, and is just 23km from Yangon, the country’s commercial capital. Around 80 companies from 17 nations and regions have agreed to move in. Half are Japanese.

Around 90% of the 400 hectares already developed are full, with tenants pumping out everything from beverages to autoparts. Direct investment in the zone is thought to total around $800 million. New SEZs are planned in the southeastern city of Dawei, with help from Japan and Thailand, and in the western city of Kyaukphyu, in cooperation with China. The Thilawa zone is the model for both.

A new investment law introduced in October could be another major draw for companies. The legislation lets foreign interests lease land and take advantage of tax benefits as domestic companies do.

Still, Myanmar has a way to go before matching the appeal of Thailand and other neighbors. Suu Kyi urged business leaders to point out the challenges they face in Myanmar, saying the government wants to work with companies to resolve those issues.

 

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

 

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