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New city development needed to draw foreign investments: Chief Minister

Yangon must be developed further to free up space for new industrial zones and residences, which, in turn, will draw more foreign investors to the city, said U Phyo Min Thein, the region’s chief minister, during an August 24 press conference detailing his government’s plans for the coming quarters.

The chief minister this year announced several new projects for Yangon, including the US$5 billion new Yangon City project, which will include five townships and10 sq km of industrial estate on the west bank of Yangon River, the Yangon Amata Smart & Eco City and up to 11 new industrial zones in 11 townships.

Instead, the government has drawn flak from members of the public, who have questioned its ability to supervise and manage new projects given the long list of problems the existing city still faces, such as poor water distribution and power shortages. Many are also concerned that the new projects could cannibalise funds and resources that could be put to better use in the old city.

But U Phyo Min Thein said the new projects will help accommodate the rising number of migrant workers from other states and regions. It will also help alleviate chronic traffic congestion and problems with squatters, which are big problems in the existing city of Yangon.

He added that the new city and other projects will be developed by the private sector and supervised by the government, and that the new projects are necessary to attract more foreign direct investments (FDI) over the long term.

“When foreign investors come to Yangon, they are always looking for land or space to set up their operations. In Yangon currently, we haven’t much land to offer them as most of the lots are already occupied or too expensive. We are trying to overcome this situation by developing new industrial zones which we can offer to foreign investors when we invite them to invest in 2018-19,” U Phyo Min Thein said.

The way he sees it, “we need more land for businesses to expand but can get nothing from old Yangon. On the other hand, the return on investment from the new projects can be channeled into improving old Yangon,” he said.

More land needed

Negotiations have already commenced with investors to lease land lots at the industrial zones. The regional government is now in the process of developing land in east Dagon and west of the Yangon River for this purpose, said U Phyo Min Thein. ‘’We are arranging to lease out lots to investors at a reasonable price,” he said.

The government will also ensure the price of farmland surrounding the new cities and industrial zones remains stable. “In the past, the price of farmland would drop significantly when the surrounding areas are being developed for industrial purposes,” the chief minister said.

With the help of local and foreign investors, more space will also be made available for the construction of low-cost housing units for the 400,000-odd squatters that currently occupy the old city. U Phyo Min Thein said the government will sell units to squatters on a long term installment system

“There is no more space in old Yangon to house these squatters. We need the new cities to officially solve the squatter problem and create job opportunities for them,” U Phyo Min Thein said.

Still, skepticism abounds, with President U Win Myint saying that the Yangon government should carefully weigh the pros and cons of implementing so many new projects at the same time.

MPs have pointed out that the regional government may be taking on too much at a time, and recommended having the list of proposed projects reviewed once more to gauge their importance.

‘’The president said that the Yangon government should develop the new cities if needed. But these new cities and industrial zones will need a lot of funds for good infrastructure, among other requirements,” said MP U Than Naing Oo from Panbedan township.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year ended March 31, Yangon received FDI totaling US$3 billion, representing more than half the country’s total FDI of $5.7 billion for the period, according to Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

SOURCE: MYANMAR TIMES

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