President Proposes New Ministry to Promote Investment

By The Irrawaddy 12 November 2018

YANGON — President U Win Myint has proposed the formation of a new Union-level ministry to boost local and international investment and to make that investment socially and environmentally responsible.

The president submitted his proposal for a Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations to Parliament on Monday for approval. Lawmakers will discuss the request on Thursday.

The plan comes at a time when Myanmar’s economy is slowing and many international investors are turning away because of the Rohingya crisis. Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since a military crackdown in northern Rakhine State late last year. The government, led by Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has come under heavy international criticism for remaining largely silent on the issue.

If Parliament approves the president’s proposal, Myanmar will have a total 25 ministries.

In a message read out by the Parliament speaker, U Win Myint said the government needed the new ministry “to make use of outside assistances from the United Nations and other international organizations in accordance with the country’s policies and to have effective  collaboration with the UN and others international organizations.”

The message did not mention who would head the new ministry. But sources in Naypyitaw say U Thaung Tun, who chairs the government’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), which manages the registration of both local and foreign companies, is tipped for the post.

U Thaung Tun is the currently national security advisor and government office minister.

He has served as ambassador to the Philippines, Belgium, the Netherlands and the EU and was director-general for political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the former military regime.

During that time, he was widely criticized by the opposition for warning Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — then under house arrest — that she “must not rock the boat” after she said she would boycott the military regime’s controversial constitution convention at a 2006 press conference in Manila.

In 2016 he worked as a government relations adviser for Shell Myanmar Energy PTE.

He was appointed national security adviser in January 2017 and government office minister that November. The appointments were criticized by former lawmaker U Soe Thane, who was president’s office minister under President U Thein Sein. U Soe Thane reportedly said that U Thaung Tun had failed to disclose his previous work for the George Soros Foundation and a consultant and said that making him national security adviser could hurt Myanmar’s relations with China.

The former lawmaker also reportedly said that George Soros approached him to secure a ministerial appointment for U Thaung Tun, but U Thein Sein rejected the idea because George Soros was American.