Business Community: Govt Must Clarify Laws to Secure Investment
By Moe Myint 10 March 2017
RANGOON — Local and international business leaders urged the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government to clarify the country’s laws to secure significant foreign investment.
The comments were made at a forum on promoting business in Burma at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon on Thursday organized by international media company Bloomberg and attended by more than 100 representatives of embassies, businesses, consultancy groups and banks.
Lack of clarity in Burma’s laws and poor infrastructure are affecting investors’ confidence, said U Ko Ko Gyi of the Capital Diamond Star group, despite the NLD government adopting a 12-point economic policy and amending the country’s investment law during its nearly one year at the helm.
“The government’s 12-point policy is so broad, they should provide detail on which sectors they want to emphasize. For example, will they develop water and irrigation?” U Ko Ko Gyi asked.
Burma’s power supply is another factor negatively affecting investment. Burma currently produces less than 3,000 megawatts per day country wide, much less than neighboring Malaysia and Thailand.
Investors are not only looking for reasonably priced, reliable power. They seek sustainable government policies, stable taxation, and rule of law, said U Zaw Zaw, chairman of the Max Myanmar Group.
U Zaw Zaw suggested the government expand ports and docks to decrease transportation costs for companies.
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)’s by-laws and rules and regulations for foreign investment have not yet been rolled out, despite some foreign factories already operating in Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which commenced its second phase in February.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) accused the government’s SEZ management body of failing to follow international standards and committing human rights violations in a report last month. The research group suggested amending SEZ laws in order to protect Burma’s citizens.
U Zaw Zaw said with the change in Burma’s political climate and the lifting of US sanctions, Burma’s tycoons are expecting foreign partners to help grow the country’s economy.
“The country was isolated 50 years … we don’t know how to lead investors to reach a global level. So, we should look at foreign partners to work together,” he said.
He said that his hope is that working with foreign partners can also change the standards of local companies to be more responsible toward society.
Bloomberg Television’s Southeast Asia correspondent Ms. Haslinda Amin questioned U Zaw Zaw on whether he thought mass foreign investment was being delayed by the country’s instability, and referred to armed clashes on the Chinese border and the plight of the Rohingya in Arakan State.
U Zaw Zaw said this would have “a little impact” but was not the only reason.
Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce Peter Beynon told The Irrawaddy that the controversial Rohingya problem could be resolved by increasing the wealth and prosperity of those in the concerned area.
“If you look at what happened around the border with Thailand, the ethnic armed groups signed peace accords … and they are benefiting from increased prosperity as a result of the border trade,” he said.
“Access to finance, land, utility, power, and human capital are the major elements that need to be addressed by the government for much more investable opportunity for foreign investors,” he concluded.
Regarding armed conflict, he said that after ethnic armed groups along the border with Thailand signed peace accords, they benefitted from an increase in trade and prosperity.
According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, the government is expecting that foreign investment in Burma will reach US$6 billion per year from 2016-2020 and $8 billion per year from 2021-2030.