New SEZ Management Committees Formed

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 17 August 2016

RANGOON — President Htin Kyaw has formed the new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Central Management Committee and Central Working Committee with officials from within Burma’s new government, led by Vice President-2 Henry Van Thio and Minister of Commerce Than Myint, respectively.

The President’s Office announced the formation of the new committees on Monday. The central SEZ management committee consists of 15 members including multiple Union ministers, who will be required to submit a detailed report to the Union government regarding proposals for new SEZs, their locations, boundaries, logistical requirements, and negotiating points to be considered with state and divisional authorities.

The committee will also organize sub-committees to plan and manage projects, as well as address different business categories and separate enterprises by appropriate size for investors. They will also fix rates for fees, tax, capital and exemptions.

Aung Naing Oo, a member of the SEZ Central Working Committee and director general of the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration (DICA), explained the reason for the new committees.

“By the SEZ law, the former committees have expired. That’s why the President has formed them with new members. They will review all zones, both old and new,” he said.

The working committee, which reports to the management committee, also has 15 members, including permanent secretaries from multiple ministries.

“The management committee will work to make policy and we, the working group, will work on ground. We will work together,” Aung Naing Oo said.

Although ex-president Thein Sein once held the post of chairman under the previous Central Management Committee, and his vice president, Nyan Tun, held the post in the working committee, current President Htin Kyaw opted out of the post.

Recently, Burma’s SEZs in Kyaukphyu, Dawei and Thilawa have faced issues regarding land confiscation and compensation, as well as weak infrastructure.

The Dawei SEZ and deep-sea port, located in Tenasserim Division and financed by the Burmese, Thai and Japanese governments, has faced local opposition for years due to social and environmental concerns, and only recently secured funding.

Arakan State’s Kyaukphyu SEZ, whose tender was given to China’s CITIC Group of Companies, has been in the works for years but has yet to resolve local complaints regarding unfair acquisition practices and land compensation.
The Kyaukphyu SEZ is expected to include an industrial zone, a housing estate and two deep-sea ports. A key feature is a Sino-Burmese pipeline project that will enable the transport of oil and gas into China’s isolated southwestern provinces.

Myat Thin Aung, chairman of Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, said SEZ committees should prioritize developing infrastructure and remain cognizant of environmental impacts.

“Environmental impact and air pollution are big concerns, as is developing weak infrastructure—both for our country and for investors,” he said.