RANGOON — The collective gaze of Burma’s business community will be firmly fixed on the country’s general election on Sunday, the results of which could herald key changes to economic policy and legislation in 2016. On the eve of the poll, The Irrawaddy spoke with six prominent businesspersons to probe their views on what the election could mean for the country’s economic trajectory.
Nyo Myint, Senior Managing Director of the KBZ Group of Companies
“Regarding the election, we are politically neutral. I’ve told my staff to vote for whoever they like. As we are businessmen, I want the country to be peaceful anyway. Only when peace prevails can businesses run smoothly and employees will have secure livelihoods. Therefore, like any other citizen, I hope the election will be held peacefully.”
Myat Thin Aung, Chairman of Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone
“Problems can arise one after another once the results are out. If the NLD [National League for Democracy] loses, there will be allegations of electoral fraud. If the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party] loses, there will be unexpected problems. Things have not changed much.
“Those who are mainly responsible for the election need to promise that power will be transferred to the winning party. If they announce this publicly, there may be fewer problems. One thing I am sure is that the party that loses will stir up trouble. The election will lead to some changes. But the question is to what extent? No matter which government comes to power, it will introduce changes. The only difference will be in speed and magnitude.”
Maung Maung Lay, vice chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI)
“Businessmen are interested in the election. We want those who will do what is necessary for business to be included in the next government. The new government needs to enact laws that are clear, understandable and facilitate [business]. It needs to cut red tape and pass unfinished laws, for example, condominium laws and investment laws. It needs to create opportunities for Burmese to be able to keep abreast of their counterparts from fellow countries when the ASEAN Economic Community comes into effect.
“Again, the new government should bring crony-dominated business to an end. We need people who do [business] in line with the rule of law. The government should promulgate pragmatic laws. According to international observers, the overall situation of Burma is not that bad in this transition period. If the election concludes fairly and peacefully, Burma will become a model country in the international community.”
Soe Tun, Chairman of the Myanmar Automobile Dealers Association
“For a new government to emerge, the election needs to be fair. If the election is not fair and not acceptable, the country will not be stable. We will know tomorrow if the election will conclude peacefully. It is difficult to say now. But I hope it will meet the wishes of the people. If the politics changes, the economy will also change.”
Thein Tun, Chairman of Tun Foundation Bank
“What is more important than the election is national reconciliation, otherwise, the country will not move forward. Setting aside differences in political, economic and personal views, [stakeholders] should work toward national reconciliation. [They should] put the country at the fore, people second, the government third, their own parties fourth and their self-interest, fifth. Only if all politicians make sacrifices… can we make developments for our country. If not, the vicious cycle [of military rule] will start again and people will suffer.”
Win Win Tint, Director of City Mart Holdings
“The election is a crucial phase for the country and I hope the best results will come out and bring about national development. Burma is lagging behind other countries and it is time we work for real progress. In fact, it is fair to say we are late to do so. No matter which government comes to power, it is important that it should best serve to stimulate development of the country. To achieve national development, we need to spur economic development. The government should adopt good economic policies.”