Myanmar Among World Bank’s Top 20 for Business Ease Improvements

By Nan Lwin 30 September 2019

YANGON – As the Myanmar government makes efforts to complete its ambitious goal to reach the top 100 of the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business index 2020, the country was listed among the top 20 most-improved countries. 

A World Bank report listed Myanmar in the top-20 improvers in Doing Business 2020, alongside China, Bangladesh and India. It is also a part of a list based on countries that make it easier to do business in three or more of 10 areas.

“Myanmar implemented five initiatives that enhanced its business environment,” the World Bank said.

The initiatives include launching an online company registration platform to cut the need for official meetings. It has also made property registration faster by streamlining deed registration and appraisal, according to the World Bank.

Moreover, a new company law is also strengthening minority investor protection by mandating greater disclosure of transactions with interested parties, increasing director liability and requiring greater corporate transparency.

Additionally, Myanmar’s courts have started publishing performance measurement reports. 

According to the World Bank, the top 20 improvers list does not fully reflect an economy’s attractiveness to business and is purely based on the improvements across 10 regulatory areas. 

The Yangon authorities have strengthened construction quality control by imposing stricter qualification requirements for architects and engineers, and have boosted investment in its water and sanitation infrastructure. 

According to U Aung Naing Oo, the permanent secretary for the Ministry for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER), Myanmar formed a taskforce to increase the ease of doing business last year. 

The taskforce is working with businesses to help streamline operations, the minister said. 

Myanmar showed no improvement in its overall ranking in the World Bank’s 2019 ease-of-doing-business index, retaining the No. 171 spot it held last year and remaining the least favorable Asean member in which to conduct business.

Since taking office in 2016, the National League for Democracy has been implementing numerous economic reforms, including amending investment laws and introducing a Myanmar Companies Law to boost confidence among foreign investors. It has created a new ministry and drawn up the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP), a road map to promote equal development in social and economic sectors.

The government has also set up an online registration system for domestic and foreign companies to remove red tape. Additionally, it introduced the Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan (MIPP), which aims to attract more than US$200 billion (305.7 trillion kyats) in investment from businesses over the next 20 years. 

MIPP projects are expected to receive US$8.5 billion between 2021 and 2026, US$12.3 billion from 2026 to 2031 and US$17.6 billion from 2031 to 2036.

The projects aim to create a centralized and publicly accessible database to enable the government to coordinate with ministries and departments and prioritize proposals that are in line with the MSDP.

Union MIFER minister U Thaung Tun in August 2018 said Myanmar was planning to introduce a standard operating procedures (SOP) policy that aims to simplify the investment process and the granting of business-related approval.

A land bank and a digital platform are also due to be set up to provide investors with information on how much government-owned land is available and work out land leases, he said. 

The government-approved foreign-direct investment was US$4.1 billion in the current fiscal year, nearly a 70-per-cent increase from the same period last year but short of the US$5.8 billion target.

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