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Myanmar’s poorest state beckons investors

CHIN state’s underdeveloped infrastructure presents great opportunities for domestic and foreign investors if they do their homework, says a report that looks into business prospects in Myanmar’s poorest region.

Min Zaw Oo, director of Chin State at the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said investors should not hesitate to invest in Chin state where a number of “golden opportunities” await. He said the most promising areas for large investments are power production, hotels and tourism, organic farming and the traditional weaving industry, and urban development.

“Investors should take early bird opportunities to ensure massive returns in the long run. Chin state is definitely a good choice for investors because they can enjoy tax exemption for seven years, which is much longer than investing in developed regions like Yangon and Mandalay,” Min Zaw Oo said at the launch of the report, entitled “Local Business Development in Chin State: Opportunities and Challenges”, on Wednesday. The report was produced by the Gender and Development Institute.

He said the Myanmar government had given priority to attracting investments in Chin state, the country’s poorest by per capita income, which is yet to receive any foreign direct investment (FDI). Local investment in the state is still less than expected, though a lot of investors have shown their interest thanks to the regulatory privileges offered in a bid to promote investment for sustainable development there, he said.

“Investors cannot expect commercial profits within a few years but I am sure they will be happy in the longer term. We cannot deny that it is a less populated province in which it takes time to go from one place to another. But this fact itself creates big opportunities for infrastructure projects and transportation-focused companies,” he said.

He stressed the importance of hard work in improving road accessibility, more investment in power supply, better accommodation policies and strengthening the private sector.

“We now have a Chin state investment strategy framework in place, and will make potential investors aware of that. The private sector needs to be stronger and proactive to cooperate with us,” he said.

“For the development we want to see in Chin state, there is no other way but to attract investment.”

Min Zaw Oo pledged to ensure faster departmental responses to make doing business easier in Chin state by reducing red tape.

Ceu Hlei Lian, president of the Chin State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that people should not underestimate the collective investment of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). He urged the authorities to encourage development of this sector in the state. “When it comes to investment, we should not think of FDI and large-scale investment only. We need to empower local SMEs so that they will come and do business here. This is the only way to move Chin state forward,” he said.

Min Zaw Oo was quick to respond to Lian’s suggestion, saying that the government has established SME zones in a number of townships in Chin state to ensure inclusive growth.

Success stories of the zones include coffee plantation and a community-based tourism project in Tonzang and Tedim townships, traditional weaving and organic farming in Hakha, Falam and Thantlang, and avocado and coffee plantation in Matupi, Mindat and Kanpetlet. Feasibility studies are under way to commercially produce mango and bamboo in Paletwa and Sami.

Funded by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the report provides some suggestions for the government including an urgent need to create job opportunities and to improve women’s participation in businesses. Thomas Donnelly, AFSC’s country representative for Myanmar, said the report is an important contribution to the resources that authorities can use to ensure inclusive growth in Chin state.

“For any country, its main asset is people. It is good for everyone when social inequality is reduced and investment can be as inclusive as possible,” he said.

SOURCE: THE NATION

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