Promising Future to Improve Australia’s Interest in Myanmar: Chamber

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Although Australia’s investment in Myanmar is less than US$130 million, the country has many rooms for improvement to receive the influx of Australian investors thanks to its promising future, said Jodi Weedon, chief executive of Australian-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce

Weedon said in a recent interview that Myanmar’s recent political and economic reforms led the nation to transparent governance and sustainable economic development.
“Increased consumer and investor confidence, and rising exports, have boosted the economy significantly. The regulatory landscape is unfolding under the new government and the future looks promising,” she said.

In an effort to attract more foreign direct investment, the long-awaited Myanmar Investment Law, consolidation of the nation’s Foreign Investment Law and Citizen Investment Law, was enacted last month. A number of laws and regulations, including the century-old Burma Companies Act, are currently under revision.
“Australian businesses considering doing business in Myanmar should have increased confidence that they are in a better position to face any obstacles that may arise,” she said.

According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, Australia stands at the 17th in the list of foreign investors in Myanmar, with 17 firms that have committed to invest $129.5 million, accounting for 0.19 per cent of the totally-approved FDI, as of November 30.
Despite optimism, Weedon warned that drawbacks to doing business in Myanmar still exist to a certain extent. These include poor infrastructure (especially electricity), a lot of bureaucracy and red tape, and a lack of rule of law (ambiguous laws making the practical application of those laws unpredictable).
“Given the developing nature of the economy, the changing regulatory   environment and the presence of state-owned enterprises and major conglomerates in the market, obtaining information on individual business and market conditions has been challenging,” she said.

In a bid to fill the gap, the Australia-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce (A-MCC) was formed in early 2013. To date, approximately 100 Australian and Myanmar companies have become members of the joint chamber. Last year, its membership base grew by around 30 per cent and a similar growth rate is expected for this year. Weedon was proud to say that a membership increase of around 15-20 per cent year over year is a growth rate of a successful chamber.

She said individuals, small and medium enterprises, and large corporates are all welcome to become members of the chamber. Benefits for a member company include access to all of the events and networking opportunities, policy shaping and engaging with the government, sponsorship opportunities, discounts at some events and other benefits.

“Expanding business in Myanmar requires establishing a wide network of contacts in both government and industry and this is essential to doing business in Myanmar. Membership provides businesses with access to networking opportunities and invaluable links to key industry and government players in Australia and Myanmar,” she said.

With the focus on building a platform for Australian companies and institutions to share their expertise with Myanmar counterparts, the chamber can act as a facilitator of best practice standards, she said.

“Myanmar private businesses are searching for capital and modern technical expertise… As Myanmar transitions to an open market economy after decades of isolation, there is great scope for the Australian private sector and institutions to play a constructive role in the development of Myanmar economy,” she said.

Weedon considers industries such as mining, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, education and services would arouse the interest of Australian businesses.

In a bid to promote responsible business in Myanmar, the chamber and Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business have worked together to create the Responsible Investment Working Group with membership drawn from the Australian Government , prominent business leaders and non-government organisations from both nations. The working group launched a paper entitled “Incentivising Shared Value” in September.

In addition to holding key events, the chamber engaged with the government to shape policies including the review of Myanmar’s mining law. Its social media presence and communication channels has grown to 1,400 subscribers to its weekly newsletter, more than 50,000 likes on Facebook and over 250 LinkedIn followers.

In the near future, the chamber hopes to work with the Australian Government on either an incoming or outgoing business delegation. Its future plans include efforts to mediate the nation’s skills shortage through a skills-swap programme whereby Myanmar interns are placed in Australian businesses for the purposes of skills sharing, training and capacity building.

 

Source: Eleven Myanmar

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