Chin to Build Infrastructure Links for Investment

CHIN State, with a population of 478,801 as of 2014, is the least developed region in Myanmar and the second least populated. Basic infrastructure is still largely absent, and this has been a major hurdle for the Chin economy.

Now, the regional government wants to attract investors by improving Chin’s road and maritime connectivity with other regions of the country as well as with neighbouring India.

In an exclusive interview during a November 17 and 18 investment workshop organised by the UK’s DaNa Facility, Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and the Chin state government, Chief Minister Salai Lian Luai spoke to The Myanmar Times about his plans to draw investments for further development.

The Myanmar Times: Which are the top sectors for investment prioritised by the regional government?

Salai Lian Luai: Eco-tourism is the top priority. Chin State has a lot of pristine and unspoiled mountains and natural landscape. In fact, we are in the process of demarcating seven places in this state as national parks, including Khonumsum. This demarcation will promote community-based tourism and attract more visitors.

Mining for resources such as copper, chromite and necal is another sector in which we are looking for investments. Investment and projects should follow the procedures of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment as laid down by the new Investment Law.

Since your cabinet took office, what are the priorities for development?

Infrastructure is among the major priorities as no local or international business will be unconcerned by an infrastructure gap. In order to attract both foreign and domestic investors, the Chin State government mainly focuses on developing the road networks, power supply as well as housing supply.

At the moment, the national grid is connected to Hakha and Falam townships in northern Chin State as well as Mindat and Kanpetlet townships in southern Chin. The government is trying to connect Tedim and Matupi townships with the national grid by next year.

Power supply only covers 15pc of the urban households right now. This supply merely supports households and is totally insufficient for industries or factories. Hence we are looking to expand the power supply further.

Which are the major concerns of the Chin community and your government?

The infrastructure gap and food insecurity are the two major concerns for the people. Land issues involving the farms on the hills complicate the situation. The government is trying to move the farms away from cultivating temporary crops to permanent cultivation. This mitigates deforestation and increases productivity. Hillside cultivation only produces 50 percent of the state’s food consumption while the remaining half has to be imported from other regions.

The community fully appreciates the magnitude of the issue of food insecurity but it is hard to push through changes overnight to solve the problem. We need to support the households in seeking alternative ways of generating revenue or adapting new technologies to produce fruits and flowers.

The migrated hillside cultivation has led to serious deforestation. Thus, the government wants the people involved to find another way of living. At the same time, the government needs to offer support in terms of research, technology and loans for the local community. These are big challenges. The government budget is insufficient or very limited in terms of fulfilling infrastructure and electricity. This is why we very much need investments in those sectors.

How are the infrastructure projects in Chin State? What is in the pipeline?

We are trying to establish the Paletwa Port and highways in order to have maritime and road access from Paletwa to Mizoram in India.

Five areas in northern Chin are going to have bridges and road networks with India. The regional government has plans to develop border trade markets.

The airport project in Falam is also moving ahead. Additionally, we are about to implement the Manipur hydropower project.

I must say all these aviation, road and maritime projects will strengthen the connectivity for Chin State and improve the ease of doing business.

What about the Chin diaspora? Do they have a role to play in building the state?

The Chin diaspora remain at the level of remitting household income back to their family members in Chin State. Most of them are yet to access higher education, since those opportunities are not widely available in Myanmar.

In other words, they are not millionaires or big investors who are able to contribute to the Chin economy or development. For example, some American-born Chinese who became big tycoons have invested back in China and are active in doing China-related businesses. But the Chin diaspora have not achieved that level of development yet.

Thus, we are pushing the investors to come and invest first and make develop our region. Eventually, we can attract our Chin diaspora to come back when they have finished their higher education to help build our economy.

What is your key message to investors?

We need a lot of domestic investments as well as FDIs. We want investors to come and invest in the sectors where the community can be benefited alongside the investors. Investments in agribusinesses are also most welcome, especially since the investors can enjoy a first-mover advantage if they invest now.

 

Source: The Myanmar Times

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