Foreign Direct Investment Goal Reached Ahead of Schedule

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 14 February 2017

RANGOON — With two months remaining in the fiscal year, the volume of foreign direct investment in Burma has nearly reached the target of US$6 billion set by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

Total foreign investment in Burma reached $5.8 billion during the period between April 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017. The commission approved several new investment proposals in January which had previously been held on a waiting list.

The current fiscal year ends on March 31, making it likely that the commission will surpass its annual goal of $6 billion in foreign direct investment.

“This year, the transport and communications sectors topped the list, more investors went there,” said U Than Aung Kyaw, deputy director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA).

According to the DICA figures, investment into the transport and telecom sectors totaled $3 billion during the first 10 months of the 2016-17 fiscal year. The manufacturing sector received another $1 billion, real estate took in $747 million, and the energy sector was targeted with $612 million in foreign investment.

Among foreign countries, Singapore is the top investor in Burma development projects, having invested $3.38 billion during the current fiscal year. Vietnam is second with $1.3 billion in investment, and China is third at $462 million.

In January, a joint telecom venture involving Vietnam’s Viettel was awarded Burma’s fourth telecom license. That project pushed up the investment figures in Burma’s communications sector.

“Now we need heavy industry to invest here, but so far only small industries are coming. That’s why foreign investment remains low,” said Dr. Maung Maung Lay, vice chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Overall foreign direct investment was expected to decline during the 2016-17 fiscal year, the first year under the National League for Democracy (NLD) government. Investors had questions about stability during the transition from military to civilian rule.

The existing lack of infrastructure in Burma also posed serious barriers to foreign investors.

“We are now worrying about power supplies in the summer. This is something that happens every summer. Why will foreign investors come here when they could go to another country that is able to offer better infrastructure?” said U Myat Thin Aung, chairman of Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone.

During the 2015-16 fiscal year, which was the last year of military rule, total foreign direct investment in Burma reached $9.4 billion. More than half of that total, $4.8 billion, went to oil and gas contracts.