Suu Kyi Calls on Japanese Companies for Investment

The Yomiuri ShimbunAung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor and foreign minister, met with representatives of the Japanese business community on Friday in Japan, calling on them to accelerate investment in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi attended a welcome luncheon hosted by business organizations including the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).

Economic development is continuing in Myanmar, dubbed “Asia’s last frontier.” However, there are challenges in the country, such as establishing a legal system and infrastructure. Not a few Japanese companies are still reluctant about advancing into Myanmar.

At the luncheon, Suu Kyi stressed Myanmar’s intention to remain a socially and economically growing member of the international community. She wants to keep Myanmar on a steady path to achieve continuous economic growth by attracting more investment from Japan and other countries.

Japanese companies have a strong interest in Myanmar, a country whose population exceeds 50 million. “As a consumer market, Myanmar remains untouched,” a source in the trading industry said.

Another factor that makes Myanmar attractive is its low wages. Factory workers’ wages there are about one-third of those in neighboring Thailand. Myanmar’s economic growth rate has also remained above 7 percent for four consecutive years to 2015.

The administration of the National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, was launched at the end of March this year. In October, the United States lifted economic sanctions imposed on the country when a military junta was running it.

As Myanmar regained political and economic stability, the number of companies listed as members of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Myanmar, grew. As of September this year, 318 are listed — a more than six-fold increase from fiscal 2010.

Major Japanese trading companies including Mitsubishi Corp., and also the Japanese government, will give their full support in terms of developing and operating the Thilawa Special Economic Zone that opened near Yangon in September last year.

Japan’s public and private sectors are also providing support to the Yangon Stock Exchange, which opened in December last year.

However, not all Japanese firms have an optimistic view. “The administration changed, but that doesn’t mean the business environment changed for the better,” one trading company official said.

Myanmar’s opaque legal and tariff systems are susceptible to sudden changes. In one case, a construction permit issued during the reign of the previous administration was suddenly suspended. “The risks are too high for us to make investments,” an official of a major contractor said.

At the luncheon, Suu Kyi also said she wanted to be informed about the problems that Japanese companies face in doing business in Myanmar and that she hopes to resolve them together.

 

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

 

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