NLD Govt Reviews Thein Sein-Era Foreign Investment MoUs

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 March 2017

NAYPYIDAW—The National League for Democracy (NLD) government is reviewing 60 out of 101 MoUs signed between the previous U Thein Sein-led government and international investors.

Of 60 MoUs, four were signed with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and 56 with the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, said deputy minister for Planning and Finance U Maung Maung Win during the Lower House session on Tuesday in response to a question from a lawmaker on the issue.

Daw Khin Moh Moh Aung of Latha Township asked if the Union government would make public the list of investors and their business models agreed upon between 2011 and 2016, as well as the businesses whose investment exceeds US$500 million.

The lawmaker criticized the government for failing to make public the consultations for dozens of projects, including the Myitsone Dam and the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone. She said that land had been confiscated from locals, who did not experience any benefits from the projects, and which lacked accountability.

“[The previous government] did not consult with local people in signing MoUs for megaprojects. And locals have complained about those projects for various reasons,” Daw Khin Moh Moh Aung said.

Deputy Minister U Maung Maung Win replied that the respective ministries are reviewing 60 MoUs, but did not disclose further details.

Projects typically have to be implemented within one year of an MoU being signed, said Dr. Win Myo Thu, a civil society organization representative in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) tripartite group in Burma.

If a project cannot be implemented within this period, and if it is deemed not to serve the interests of local people, then that project should be canceled, he said.

“Frankly speaking, it would be more beneficial to stop such projects. It is easy to terminate projects for which an MOA [Memorandum of Agreement] has not been signed,” said Dr. Win Myo Thu.

Of foreign investments approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) between 2011 and 2016, five foreign companies invested more than US$500 million each.

Among them are China’s Upstream Ayeyarwaddy Confluence Basin Hydropower Co. Ltd. (Chipwi); Malaysia’s Tan Chong Motor (Myanmar) Co. Ltd., which operates a Nissan automobile manufacturing plant in Rangoon; Singapore’s Mobile and Fixed Line Telecommunications Services, which operates Ooredoo Myanmar Ltd.; Singapore’s Telecommunications Services and Related Activities which operates KDDI Summit Global Myanmar Co. Ltd.; and China Longwin Global Petrochemical Co. Ltd. which would operate an oil refinery that could produce 5 million metric tons of petrol per year and a port to be used for exporting petroleum products.

The deputy minister said that details about foreign companies, their businesses and monthly inbound investments are made public on the official website of Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration.

From 2011 to 2016 under the previous government, 15 MoUs were signed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, ten with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, five with the Ministry of Industry, ten with the Ministry of Construction, and 61 with the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, totaling 101.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko