The Irrawaddy

Finance Minister Predicts ‘Take Off’ for Burma Economy 

Minister for Planning and Finance U Kyaw Win addresses the first Myanmar Investment Forum in Naypyidaw on June 6. (Photo: Htet Naing Zaw/The Irrawaddy)

NAYPYIDAW — The finance minister attempted to reassure investors that Burma’s economy is on a promising trajectory at a trade conference on Tuesday, despite business owners’ concerns that the economy has become tepid.

Minister for Planning and Finance U Kyaw Win told the Myanmar Investment Forum in Naypyidaw that the government would improve its management of economic growth to counter high inflation, a poor trade deficit and higher inflation inherited from the previous administration.

“We see that last year the country’s economy was like a plane moving on the runaway,” he said. “Now this year, we will defy gravity with jet power, meaning this is the year economic development will take off.”

However, not all of the 500 or so investors and businesspeople at the forum were convinced of the government’s economic strategy. U Thein Tun, chairman of the Tun Foundation Bank, told The Irrawaddy he was unsatisfied with the country’s recent economic growth and thought its policies were too broad.

“If the government has drawn, for instance, a five-year master plan for economic development, it should also ensure a yearly operation plan and measure its plan with a key performance indicator—this is essential,” he said. “It needs to instill confidence in the investors who are worried about coming here.”

The National League for Democracy (NLD) government published its 12-point economic policy last August, placing national reconciliation at the forefront of its approach toward the economy.

Last October it released a more detailed plan to expedite growth, including a promised clampdown on corruption and the promotion of investment in agriculture, small and medium sized enterprises, banking, health care and infrastructure projects.

“We have been relying on our natural resources sector to find earnings,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Win, chairman of both Sinma Furnishing Co., Ltd and the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council. “So there are many problems to solve when changing the system and developing the manufacturing sector.”

He said local manufacturers have faced many hurdles in trying to attract investors, such as a lack of infrastructure and an unfair tax system.

Khin Maung Aye, chairman of the Myanmar Investors Development Association, and CB Bank, hoped for “concrete discussions” at the forum, which runs from June 6-7.

He emphasized the importance of the private sector to the conference and added that Burma was ready to welcome investors.

The World Bank expected economic growth in Burma to decrease from 7.3 percent in 2015-2016 to 6.5 percent in 2016-2017 and projected medium-term growth to average at 7.1 percent per year.