Are New Ministers an Auspicious Sign For Burma’s Businesses?

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 22 March 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s business community reacted positively as the Union Parliament released 18 names for cabinet positions on Tuesday.

Among the national ministers listed are National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers Than Myint and Kyaw Win, who have been nominated for the positions of Minister of Commerce and Minister of National Planning and Finance, respectively.

Than Myint, 72 years old, is currently the NLD chairman for Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Township and a lawmaker in the Lower House. He received a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Rangoon University and completed graduate work in the United States. He has served in a number of positions within the Ministry of Finance, and joined the NLD in 2012.

“He [Than Myint] is a member of the NLD’s economic development committee and has a good background in economic affairs… so I believe he will work for this post,” Aye Lwin, central executive committee member of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

“Ministers must also implement the government’s policies, which is another reason why I believe he can do this,” Aye Lwin added, referring to Than Myint’s NLD ties.

The other candidate, Kyaw Win, 68 years old, is a business consultant and an NLD lawmaker for the Lower House representing Rangoon’s Dagon Seikkan Township. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics, as well as a doctorate.

“I would welcome the national planning and finance ministries becoming one ministry since all national projects are related to finance. He [Kyaw Win] would be able to control such a ministry because he has solid experience with businesses,” Aye Lwin said.

Yet both nominees are essentially unknown within Burma’s business community.

“I don’t know either of them, but [the NLD] will make policies, and they will follow them. We still have to see how to build a good system, but what I can say now is that they [Than Myint and Kyaw Win] must be honest, unlike previous ministers,” Chit Khine, chairman of the Eden Group of Companies, told The Irrawaddy.

Maung Maung Lay, vice chairman of the UMFCCI, echoed Chit Khine’s optimism.

“The Ministry of Commerce already has some good policies, so the next government should maintain these policies while also, for instance, trying to curtail red tape. The minister must be able to work with all government staff members more efficiently,” he said.

“Crafting good policy while also following the law and regulations will be important in the new government era.”

The incoming NLD government revealed 18 names for cabinet positions for 21 ministries, though the specific assignments for the ministerial posts have not all been disclosed.