YANGON—Myanmar moved up six places to 165th on the World Bank’s 2020 ease of doing business ranking in the bank’s latest report, which cites several reforms including creating an easier environment for starting a business and greater protections for minority investors.
On Thursday, the World Bank’s latest report on ease of doing business ranked documented regulatory changes in 12 areas of business activity in 190 economies that encourage efficiency and support the freedom to do business.
The World Bank said Myanmar introduced substantial improvements in five areas of doing business—starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, protecting minority investors and enforcing contracts.
Myanmar’s ambitious reform program allowed the country to rise out of the bottom 20 to a ranking of 165, the World Bank said.
In the 2019 ease of doing business index, Myanmar retained the No. 171 spot it held in 2018, making it the least favorable ASEAN member in which to conduct business.
The World Bank said Myanmar made starting a business easier by introducing an online platform for company registration and by reducing incorporation fees. Moreover, the country strengthened construction quality control by imposing stricter qualification requirements for architects and engineers and making building permit requirements available online.
Likewise, Myanmar has improved its water and sanitation infrastructure and made the process of obtaining building permits more efficient by introducing service quality standards. The country also made property registration faster by streamlining deed registration and appraisal. Additionally, the quality of Myanmar’s land administration system has improved thanks to the publication of a fee schedule, official service standards, and statistics on property transfers for the previous calendar year.
The bank said Myanmar strengthened minority investor protections by requiring greater disclosure of transactions with interested parties, increasing director liability and requiring greater corporate transparency.
Moreover, Myanmar made enforcing contracts easier by publishing performance measurement reports, according to the World Bank.
The World Bank monitors 12 areas of business regulation. Ten of these areas—starting a business, dealing with construction permits, accessing electricity, registering property, accessing credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency—are included in the ease of doing business score and ease of doing business ranking.
Recently, a World Bank report listed Myanmar among the top 20 improvers in its Doing Business 2020 report, alongside China, Bangladesh and India. The country was also included in a list of countries that have made it easier to do business in three or more of 10 areas.
Last year, after Myanmar failed to improve on the World Bank index, Myanmar’s Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations formed a taskforce to find ways to improve its performance.
The Myanmar government set the ambitious goal of reaching the top 100 of the index for 2020.
Since taking office in 2016, the National League for Democracy has implemented numerous economic reforms, including amending investment laws and introducing a Myanmar Companies Law to boost confidence among foreign investors. It has created a new ministry and drawn up the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP), a road map to promote equal development in social and economic sectors.
The government has also set up an online registration system for domestic and foreign companies to remove red tape. Additionally, it introduced the Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan (MIPP), which aims to attract more than US$200 billion (305.7 trillion kyats) in investment from businesses over the next 20 years.
MIPP projects are expected to receive US$8.5 billion between 2021 and 2026, US$12.3 billion from 2026 to 2031 and US$17.6 billion from 2031 to 2036.
Myanmar also introduced a project bank that aims to create a centralized and publicly accessible database to enable the government to coordinate with ministries and departments and prioritize proposals that are in line with the MSDP.
On Monday, at the Myanmar Investment Conference in Tokyo, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said her government has been both aggressive and strategic in liberalizing various key economic sectors—citing the recent reform of the insurance sector allowing 100-percent foreign-owned life insurance companies to operate in Myanmar.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the government is planning to introduce a new Land and Property Bank that will expedite processes that involve the lease of state-owned land and properties through centralized electronic means.
“Myanmar is in the process of transforming an opaque, non-competitive, connections-based economy into a larger, more transparent, more competitive, rules-based economy,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi added.
Government-approved foreign direct investment so far this fiscal year totals US$4.1 billion, nearly a 70-per-cent increase from the same period last year but short of the US$5.8 billion target.