Thilawa SEZ by Early 2013: Govt Official

By May Lay 24 October 2012

The Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) located 25 km south of Rangoon should be operational early next year, Dr. Kan Zaw, Burmese Minister for National Planning and Economic Development, told a seminar on Sunday.

The project will be jointly controlled by the Japan External Trade Organization and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) with a 49 and 51 percent share respectively, said the government official.

“All these instances of sound economics have materialized after we implemented reform,” said Kan Zaw. “We invited international investment. This Thilawa SEZ is the product of creating an investor-friendly environment.”

Under the umbrella of the UMFCCI, shareholders of many associations from difference industrial sectors are expected to invest, but critics have complained about a lack of transparency and the possibility of a monopoly.

“We will sell our shares before we start the Thilawa SEZ project next year. We cannot say so far when this will finish and how much it will cost but we hope to tackle these issues soon,” UMFCCI Chairman Win Aung told local media.

“We will not monopolize all shares and economic investment. We are planning to give a chance for the public to invest in the SEZ.”

All investors in Thilawa will work under specific SEZ legislation with the government trying to reduce registration red tape for interested parties. The project is situated next to the existing Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa deep-sea port.

“For investors, they need only three hours for company registration and no more than 15 days for investment registration. The government will also set up a one-stop service center for the SEZ which will serve as a link with many other companies and SEZ investors,” said Hset Aung, Deputy Minister for National Planning and Economic Development, during his speech.

“There is much potential for investment in Myanmar. We expect normal levels of internal migration particularly from rural to urban areas,” he added. “These labor resources for the Thilawa SEZ can be seen as an advantage for investors.”

The Thilawa SEZ will contain a “free zone” and “promotion zone.” In the free zone, export-oriented industries can import raw materials and export products freely but must pay tax on products when they want to distribute in the domestic market.

The promotion zone will contain hospitals, an education centre, residential areas, supermarkets, banks, and other amenities. Domestic companies can invest in the promotion zone to export as well as distribute locally but must pay tax on products, raw material and equipment.