Zaw Zaw is the chairman of Max Myanmar Group of Companies, one of Burma’s biggest conglomerates, with interests in the country’s construction, hotel, real estate and agricultural sectors. He also intends to expand his banking business under the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government, but remains on a US blacklist, preventing American companies from doing business with him.
The Irrawaddy spoke with Zaw Zaw on Friday about his expanding financial business, fostering a younger generation of entrepreneurs and his hopes for being removed from the US sanctions list.
Why are you focusing more on the financial sector lately?
The banking sector plays a crucial role in the development of the country and it is not yet on par with international banking industries. [Business owners] are working to meet international financial reporting standards [IFRS]. This is important. While we work to meet these standards, we must also practice corporate governance, so that the international community can work with us reliably.
All of the economic players and the banks should strive to achieve these standards. Then, the international community will trust us—bringing investment, economic gains, higher incomes and more job opportunities.
What should the new government’s first priority be to help develop the weak banking industry?
Changes should start at the Central Bank of Myanmar. There are many challenges, one of which is training skilled employees, both in the Central Bank and private banks.
Even more important is improving technology. Currently, [international] banks are using advanced technologies. The question is how we can catch up.
Also, we need infrastructure development. If there were no longer economic sanctions under the new government, the international community would increase foreign investment into the country.
The Central Bank should be an independent body, as intended?
Yes, and it should make necessary changes to laws and regulations. The financial sector is not only about the banking industry. It includes other sectors. The new government needs to implement effective measures for development and consider how it can fulfill the financial needs of businessmen. One way would be to switch from the traditional cash-based economy to using [credit and debit] cards.
You are thought to be the first person that will be removed from the US sanctions list under the new government. Do you believe this?
I believe it will happen. I’m not involved in any cases related to human rights violations or land confiscation. I have not violated any environmental conservation regulations. I have tried to reach the standards set for business responsibility.
I want to see young businessmen shape the future of our country and I want to act as an intermediary. I have worked to meet international norms and I have demonstrated transparency. I hope for the best.
What businesses do you plan to expand under the new government?
I plan to expand the financial sector and support young businessmen and entrepreneurs. I want to show other countries our capabilities.
Are you prepared if the new government offers you an economic advisory position?
I am ready to play any part to support the country. I don’t care about positions. I will do what I can for our country.