U Thaung Tun Investment Myanmar Invest Myanmar Summit

A Conversation with H.E. U Thaung Tun, Union Minister of MIFER, and Chairman of MIC

In its efforts to draw investments into the country, the Myanmar Government recently established a new Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations, paving the way for better coordination between ministries on local and foreign investment as well as on development projects implemented with foreign aid and loans.

H.E. U Thaung Tun, Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations, and Chairman of Myanmar Investment Commission sat down with moderator U Thura Ko Ko, Managing Director, YGA Capital Limited, on the second day of the Invest Myanmar Summit to discuss the changes this new Ministry is likely to effect in the country.

Invest Myanmar Summit 2019

29 January 2019

 Myanmar Convention Centre 2, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

U Thura Ko Ko:

အားလံုးၾကြေရာက္လာေသာ လူႀကီးမင္းမ်ား ဒီနံနက္ခင္းမွာ မဂၤလာအေပါင္းႏွင့္ ျပည့္စံုၾကပါေစလို႔ ဆုမြန္ေကာင္းေတာင္းၿပီးေတာ့မွ ႏႈတ္ဆက္ပါရေစ။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္နာမည္က သူရကိုကိုပါ။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ ခဏေလး introduction အေနနဲ႔ အစကတည္းက ဒီ huge responsibility ကို တာ၀န္ထမ္းေဆာင္ဖို႔ နဂိုကတည္းက ေၾကာက္ၿပီးသား အခုတက္ခါနီး UMFCCI အကိုႀကီးေတြက အေ၀းကေနၾကည့္ရင္ ကၽြန္ေတာ္နဲ႔ ၀န္ႀကီးနဲ႔က နည္းနည္းခပ္ဆင္ဆင္ တူေနပါသလားလို႔ သတိထားမိတယ္တဲ့။ အဲ့ဒါ Story ေလးတစ္ခု၊ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ သီတဂူဆရာေတာ္ဘုရားႀကီးနဲ႔ အင္ဒိုနီးရွားကို ကပိယအေနနဲ႔ ၾကြသြားတုန္းက အေ၀းက ခန္းမအေနာက္ဘက္က အင္ဒိုနီးရွား ဗုဒၶဘာသာေတြက ဆရာေတာ္နဲ႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ထြက္လာေတာ့ မွားၿပီးေတာ့မွ ကၽြန္ေတာ့ကို နာ၀ကမလွဴမိတာ အဲ့ဒါ ဆရာေတာ္ႀကီးက မ်က္ႏွာထားနဲ႔ ၾကည့္ၿပီးေတာ့မွ ယူရဲရင္ယူ ၿပီးရင္ေတာ့ သကၤန္းအၿပီး၀တ္လိုက္ေတာ့လို႔ေျပာမိတာ။

Good morning Ladies and Gentleman, my name is U Thura Ko Ko. Some of you had the pleasure of listening to His Excellency yesterday make some brief comments at the wonderful Gala Dinner. For some of you, it may be the first time you are seeing both of us. So, given some similarities, let me firstly make it perfectly it clear that His Excellency is sitting to your right and myself sitting to your left. By way of context, I represent TPG Capital and we have been privileged to invest close to $500 million in Myanmar businesses since 2014.

In addition to that, we’ve had the ability to bring to bear $500 million worth of debt to Myanmar businesses. So a total of a billion dollars and of that $500 million, Your Excellency, a $185 million was a refinancing just approved a few weeks ago by the Central Bank of Myanmar. What I wanted to underline is that the interest in Myanmar, Your Excellency, is very much still real and strong. In that refinancing, when we syndicated out to a number of banks actually, a number of banks who have never extended facilities to Myanmar came into this syndication. This is encouraging, despite some of the challenges that we are experiencing.

So without further ado, I wanted to hand over to you with your first question, if I may, and hopefully some of these questions are representative of foreign investors — as I represent one, and I had the opportunity to speak with a number in the audience as well.

So first question, Your Excellency, is: There is interest, but there are challenges both globally and regionally. We have sentiment issues, both globally and on Myanmar specifically. With all of that, given your ten weeks in your new responsibility of Union Minister for Investment in Foreign Economics Relations, I just wanted to first open up with what do you feel, Your Excellency, your priorities, and what is being your understanding of the investment environment, especially that you’ve just returned from [the WEF] Davos [Annual Meeting] as well.

H.E. U Thaung Tun: Thank you very much for the question. Before I go into this question, first, I would like to apologise for coming in late. I had another interview. So, you can imagine the number of interviews I have every day. So I began at 7 this morning and I am still at some interviews. So my apologies for being late and if you see twins on the stage, I don’t think this is a coincidence, this was a setup by the organisers to make you more relaxed early in the morning.

But, I promise you that I will do my best and to answer the questions that he has posed to me. I understand he has had conversations with many of you so I think his questions will reflect some of the queries that you have in this chamber.

First, let me say that I feel very pleased and honoured to be taking charge of this new Ministry, having requested to do so. I think this is an important move for Myanmar. It is a reflection of desire to focus on trying to ensure that there is more investment in Myanmar, and that we have a level playing field for all interested bodies.

I’d like to refer back to the Davos meeting that was mentioned earlier by my good friend. I have just returned from Davos, Switzerland the day before yesterday. I met some of you all on the plane, and I am very happy that you followed me back to Nay Pyi Taw. It is, I believe, a vote of confidence in Myanmar.

When I was in Davos, I was trying to bring Myanmar to the world. I am one of those Myanmar [people] who are not used to keeping quiet, and I would like to blow my own trumpet. That may seem inappropriate to some of my colleagues, but I think we need to let the world know that there is Myanmar — that we are ready for business. So that is what I did in Davos. I’ve been telling them that Myanmar is now open for business. We are now making the necessary changes to keep in tune with the world and I think it is time to invest in Myanmar. That was the message I was trying to project in Davos.

Here, I am very happy that many of you have come thousands of miles to be with us in Nay Pyi Taw and to see for yourself firsthand the change in the investment climate. The Ministry was set up to ensure that we have a facilitating and friendly environment for investors. The world today is changing. It is changing in many ways.

We are now on the cusp of a new revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And this Fourth Industrial Revolution will have a vast effect on many of our countries. So, we all need to be prepared for the changes that are on the way. Myanmar itself is preparing for that change and one of the first things we have done is to make the change and transformation in the economic sector. So, we believe that in order to have more investment, which is necessary for the progress of our country, we would need to ensure that we change the legal framework. And those of you who have been living in Myanmar know that in the last few months, we have made some changes that will have much effect on the way we do business here. The legal framework plus the administrative procedures have been changed.

One of the most noticeable changes is the use of digital technology to achieve progress. So, we now have company registration online and as you’ve heard the State Counsellor said yesterday within the span of a few months — five months — we’ve had over 8,500 companies that were registered online. So that is a very positive sign. [We have] two priorities — to put it in a nutshell, the priorities are to ensure that doing business in Myanmar will be easy.

If you look at the World Bank Index, it indicates that doing business in Myanmar isn’t that easy. But I can tell you that within the last few months, we have taken a number of significant measures to ensure that it will be much easier to do business in Myanmar.

The two things that we have done is, one,  we are now setting up a standard operating procedure. So, we are working with the Ministry of Planning and Finance to set up a standard operating procedure, so that when you come to MIC, for a project proposal, you will have before you a standard operating procedure that you will be familiar with.

We will work with the Ministries to ensure that when you come for a permit and we give you the permit, there will not be a need to have further permits. We are looking to a single-window system where you can feel assured that your proposal will be considered, and then when it is passed, you do not need to go to other places to get your project going. In the past, there has been a situation where you had a permit from the MIC but you still had to go to other Ministries to get permission for electricity, construction, or for water and other facilities. That, we are doing away with.

The next thing we want to do is to set up a Land Bank. Why do we want to set up a Land Bank? The reason is that many of the investors complain that it is difficult to get the land they need to have the project started. So, we have decided that the Government and Ministries, will have that land in a digital register. It will be on a digital platform where everybody will know how much land is available, where it is available, and what is the type of land that is available. That will make it easier for the investors and that will be more transparent, and would level the playing field for everybody who wants to invest in Myanmar.

The other changes that we are looking to are in the banking and insurance sector. And as you know, in recent weeks, we have made some changes to the banking sector. Now there is a possibility for foreign banks to be able to operate in a more normal fashion, and then we will allow insurance companies, even 100% insurance companies to set up shop in Myanmar, and to be able to do insurance business. So this is a major change and the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations will drive this. We want to make sure that this will proceed as planned.

U Thura Ko Ko: Thank you, Your Excellency. You have touched on a number of topics already. What I might do is ask a couple of questions on one or two sectors that are of interest. But let me start with your point on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  

The telco sector has been an outright success in terms of reform, bringing in foreign investment. As I’ve mentioned, we are an investor in this space.  One statistic is between 2014 and 2018, the number of telecom towers in our country has gone from just less than 3,000 to over 15,000 towers covering 52 million people. In the Philippines, Your Excellency, they have a network covering 100 million people, but only with 15,000 towers.

I was speaking with regulators there and they couldn’t believe the tremendous growth and changes in this sector. But in your opinion, how real is this technical revolution? Are we ahead of ourselves? Is the leapfrogging in technology real, Your Excellency? And how can the rest of Myanmar benefit from it?

U Thaung Tun: Indeed, I said earlier that we are on the cusp of change. We are on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Third Industrial Revolution actually passed us because we were in isolation — self-imposed isolation mainly for five decades. When the Third Industrial Revolution was happening, and countries around the world were changing the way they worked, and the systems became digital. The digital revolution passed us, without us really realising that we were left behind.

Now that we have taken a decision to open up. We would like to take quicker steps. We would like to turn our first faltering steps into much quicker steps. But we are not just asking our people to run when others are walking. We will not just leapfrog, we will take quantum leaps. This is in the words of the State Counsellor, we need to catch up with the world, we will take quantum leaps. So I am very pleased and happy to see that our young people are getting more and more familiar with the digital revolution.

In fact, the fact that most of us have this handheld device in our pockets. [We have] 100% penetration of internet-accessible technology and all of us, even the poorest in our country, can afford a $1 SIM card, and you are able to be in touch with the world. So, this is a revolution whose time had come for us and I believe that we are now in a position to take this quantum leap.

A few years ago, in the United States, there was what they call a Robotic Olympics. And out of 163 countries, Myanmar came out sixth. And this is for a country that is just beginning to open up to digital technology. So you can imagine the possibilities that exist for Myanmar to really catch up with the world. I am very optimistic that we will not be left behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I know that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to be very different from the previous revolutions. From the First Industrial Revolution, we took advantage of animal-based power, then we had mass production, then we had the digital leap forward.

But this time around, there will be robots to replace workers, there will be neurological technological changes. All those changes are going to take place at a very fast pace. But I am confident that the young people that we have will be able to cope with this because our population of about 53 to 54 million, thirty percent of which are of young people under thirty years old. They are all keen on new technology and we are happy to see that many of them have started up fintech companies.

For example, there is a company called Phandeeyar, I am sure many of you are familiar with it. Phandeeyar loosely translates as a creative place, place of creation or a creative crucible. We now have a situation where there are many new startup companies which will fill the void. There is a lot of hope that Myanmar can catch up and be relevant in the new situation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

U Thura Ko Ko: Thank you, Your Excellency. Some of us saw that for ourselves right upfront with KBZPay and the registrations. They have gone from zero to 1.3 million in over six months. These are statistics as good as in Indonesia, where they have similar logistics problems. So, that opportunity is real.

U Thaung Tun: I think so too. I share your view. With money for example, the one YOMA Bank, FMI and Telenor have put together is a fantastic medium for our people. Now, they have wayfinding stations around the country, more than even bank branches and ATM machines.

This is a very positive step forward. Very recently, we heard about KBZPay, which is a very innovative way, and as you’ve said, there has been more than a million subscribers in the short time of a couple of weeks. This is very encouraging and I am sure the country will catch up. The pace of change will quicken in the coming months and years.

U Thura Ko Ko: Thank you Minister. I’d like to now move to infrastructure. The telecom sector is perhaps an easier sector to reform because often pricing to users fall with privatisation. The other infrastructure facilities such as electricity, water, roads often are harder.

The McKinsey report recently suggested that our country needed $150 billion worth of infrastructure investment over the next 10 or so years. Half of that in transportation, a little bit more on power and so on. The Project Bank that I went through yesterday included inland ports in Bhamo and Kalewa, a 430 km railway between Muse and Mandalay, and the upgrade of Thandwe Airport and Hpa-An bridge.  But, all of that, Minister, requires a great deal of documentation, of bankable contracts, perhaps even tariff reforms. Some of our investors, who are absolutely interested in this space, are wondering how your Ministry and the Government are going to address some of these points, particularly in the remaining 2 to 3 years of this Government.

U Thaung Tun: It is quite clear that we have both challenges and opportunities. For those of you who have been living in Myanmar for the past few years, are already aware of these opportunities as well as challenges. Of course, there are perils if we want to move forward. But we are aware of these challenges that we face.

One of the biggest challenges for us is lack of infrastructure. And this, of course, is a golden opportunity for our partners who are just coming in. The lack of infrastructure is something that you can fill. Of course, it means a lot of funding a lot of planning, and discussions that needs to be done. But it is a reflection that Myanmar is the next frontier — perhaps, the best last frontier as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi put it yesterday. It is an opportunity for our partners to come and upgrade the infrastructure.

Myanmar is strategically located — I don’t need to underscore that. But let me repeat that Myanmar is standing right between India and China, two of the world’s fastest growing economies. And Myanmar is the transport hub for the whole of Asia.

If you look at India, it needs to be connected to the East. It is looking at China and ASEAN, and Myanmar is right at the middle. If you look at China’s BRI — the Belt and Road Initiative, you will find that Myanmar is in the middle of all this. Because in the 21st Century, the maritime Silk Road must pass through Myanmar and it is in the interest of everybody to make sure that Myanmar has the facilities, the transport lanes, and the possibility to be part of this exciting era.

China’s rise should not be seen as something of an obstacle for all of us. I think we can all benefit if we turn this region into a region of cooperation rather than confrontation. We can all be connected, we can have peace, and this will ensure the development of not only the region but of the entire world. This is because the BRI is an initiative that is aimed to connect Europe, Africa and Asia.

Myanmar will provide the entryway for the entrepot of the hinterland of China. So if you are exporting from Yunnan, it will go to Kyaukphyu or Yangon or other deep sea ports that we are planning. So we are relevant to  the whole BRI initiative.

I must admit we do have problems of connectivity, mainly the infrastructure, but trust us, we have done well in the communications sector. I think we can do equally well in the infrastructure. If many of you who are involved in the infrastructure projects, we would like to welcome you and will find a facilitating environment. At the moment, we have many economic corridors that you might consider. The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor: we are thinking of a roadlink from India to Myanmar to Thailand. All these are opportunities for investors.

U Thura Ko Ko: Thank you Your Excellency. Just one point on the Belt and Road Initiative. Some concerns on the many interests you need to balance, between China and India, also concerns within the country. And I think you mentioned briefly backstage, your concept of phasing some of these investments, rather than favouring one over the other. Perhaps, some thoughts on that?

U Thaung Tun: Since independence in 1948, Myanmar has some friends in the neighbourhood and around the world. We want to be friends with everybody and would like to have cooperation rather than confrontation in Myanmar.

Of course in the early days, when we gained independence, the world was in a different situation. But today, we are looking to cooperate with one another to ensure that the living standards will rise everywhere. The gap between the developed and developing countries must be narrowed.

I think the only way to do this is to work together. There is a golden opportunity to do this. In the case of Myanmar, we have been working with our neighbours, both India and China, to ensure that we can benefit from the fact that they are the fastest growing economies. For example, China has been working with us to set up a deep sea port in Kyaukpyu, and a SEZ (Special Economic Zone) adjacent to Kyaukpyu. So, we have been in discussion with China for the past few years, and people have been talking about it and saying that Myanmar is disinterested in the entire project. That is not so.

What we want to do is to ensure that it is a win-win situation for all of us. For China, for Myanmar and for the neighbourhood. We need to have a deep sea port in that area. It does not need to be a mega deep sea port, it needs to be a deep sea port that needs space.

So if  we need to have a deep sea port, we will begin with a small project, [with the] possibility to expand when there is a need. So we can start say with two berths at the deep sea port, and if there is demand, then it will grow. So it depends on the demand.

We are ready to work with China and India. India is developing the Sittwe port, and we have a multimodal project that will take us from Swittwe river transport up to the Kaladan River to northeast India. That will give India the possibility to have supplies go through the Kaladan River. It will be beneficial to India, and it will be beneficial to Myanmar.

It will open up the whole area and all of us can work together for the benefit of the people living in this part of the world. So whether it is India, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, we need to work together. We live in an age of cooperation. It should be focusing on cooperation rather than confrontation. So the pie is big enough for everybody.

U Thura Ko Ko: Thank you, Your Excellency. Just to give a heads up, with the Minister’s permission, we will open up in a moment for perhaps one or two questions from the audience if we can get logistics right, and so just bear that in mind. The questions, if we can reserve them for members of the investment community, because I think there is a separate session for the press immediately afterwards.

I have one more question, Your Excellency, and it’s perhaps the elephant in the room. One of the challenges we have in investing and you are addressing a number of them in terms of approval processes and coordination between Ministries and so on. But one challenge we are facing is also one of global sentiments and of course the Rakhine situation is one that many of our investment communities keep raising. I just wanted to give you an opportunity given your firsthand experience in this sensitive matter, but also how the government is trying to improve sentiments towards investment in the country, if I may ask that.

U Thaung Tun: I thought you would never bring it up. Rakhine could be seen as an elephant in the room but I thought more like a bull in a china shop. Actually we are aware of the situation in Rakhine. We have always been aware, we have never swept Rakhine under the carpet. From day one, this government felt that we have a situation in Rakhine, and that if it is not handled right, it could grow out of hand and that is why from the very beginning in 2016, we set up the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission.

We realised that there is a problem, but this is a long-standing problem. This is something that we inherited from the past — not just the recent past. But it’s been there for centuries and we believe we need to find a sustainable solution. Not a short term solution, but a sustainable solution where peace will prevail and communities will live together in harmony. For me, as a National Security Advisor, the other hat that I wear, I’d like to have peace and security for everybody in this country. Every citizen needs to feel secure and that has been the objective that I have been working towards — to ensure the safety of each and everybody of this country.

With regard to Rakhine, we were trying to find a solution that will be acceptable to all and that’s why we reached out to the international community – to help us, work with us, and partner with us to find a solution not to aggravate the situation.

So what has happened is that terrorism was given a chance to show its fangs. The situation became explosive, but we have been trying to control the situation and to make sure that there is change in the right direction.

We need to address the root causes of the situation in Rakhine. What is the root cause of the situation? There are a lot of undocumented people there, there is poverty, underdevelopment, lack of jobs – we need to address these issues.

We cannot accept terrorism as a solution to all these that we face in Rakhine. That is why I think we can work together with the international community, find sustainable solutions, create jobs and you have a lot of big companies here.

Let us start with agro-based industries, let us start with fisheries, let us have inclusive ways to bring the communities together. Start up universities — let’s look at education, health, instead of pointing fingers, instead of blaming and shaming.

Let us work together to find a viable solution. If you would only focus on issues that are negative, if you would only focus on accountability, that is not going to solve the problem, it will only aggravate the situation in Rakhine.

What we need to do is to work together to develop Rakhine and soon you will have this opportunity to meet in Rakhine. Rakhine is 17 districts, and but one part of Myanmar. There are many other states – 14 states and the administrative division of Nay Pyi Taw. But Rakhine poses a challenge — we all know, and I understand. But Rakhine, out of 17 states, there are only 3 out of 17 districts, there are only 3 districts adjacent to Bangladesh that is having some security problems. So let us work to resolve this situation there. We will start next month, in a few weeks to have an investment seminar in Rakhine. So that you will see for yourself, firsthand, the stability and peace that prevails in the vast majority of Rakhine State.

We will meet in Thandwe, and you are all invited to come there and look at the potential of Rakhine to become a developed state. It is one of the least developed states in our country, the second poorest part of our country but it is a very fertile land. It produces more rice than you think. During the British colonial period, this was a rice producing area of Myanmar (Burma then). That was a reason why we had an influx of workers coming into Myanmar so it is time to understand the historical background to all these.

It is time to work together to have harmony and how do we do that? I think you are the answer to the problem in Rakhine. If you say there is a problem in Rakhine, work with us to develop Rakhine and we will change the situation.

U Thura Ko Ko: Thank you for addressing that, and indeed thank you for allowing me to ask any questions. I want to give you a full 45 minutes so I am going to overrun a little bit. I promised to allow for one or two questions. Any questions from the audience?

Question One:

မဂၤလာပါခင္ဗ်။ ၀န္ႀကီးခင္ဗ် ကၽြန္ေတာ္ ေဇယ်ပါ။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ Power Generation ျမန္မာျပည္မွာ အဓိကလုပ္ပါတယ္။ အႏွစ္ ၂၀ ေက်ာ္ရွိပါၿပီခင္ဗ်။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔အခု လက္ရွိအေနအထားအရ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံ လွ်ပ္စစ္ဓာတ္အားေတြ လံုေလာက္တယ္လို႔ ေျပာတဲ့သူေတြရွိသလုိ မလံုေလာက္ဘူးလို႔ ေျပာတဲ့လူလည္း ရွိပါတယ္ခင္ဗ်။ ဒါေပမဲ့ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ျမင္ေတြ႔ေနရတာ လၽွပ္စစ္ဓာတ္အားရဲ႕ ေစ်းႏႈန္းဟာ regional မွာ ၾကည့္လို႔ရွိရင္ အလြန္ဘဲ နိမ့္က်ေနပါတယ္။ အဲ့အတြက္ေၾကာင့္မို႔ ႏိုင္ငံေတာ္က ဘာလို႔လဲဆိုေတာ့ subside လုပ္ေနတာေတြက တစ္ႏွစ္ကို USD $500 million dollar ေလာက္ရွိပါတယ္။ ဒီ USD $500 million dollar ကုိသာ subside မလုပ္ဘူးဆိုလို႔ရွိရင္ တျခား infrastructures ေတြ အမ်ားႀကီးတည္ေဆာက္ႏိုင္သလို လၽွပ္စစ္ infrastructures ေတြကိုလည္း အမ်ားႀကီးတည္ေဆာက္ႏိုင္မွာ ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ ဟိုတေလာက tariff ေတြ reform လုပ္မယ္ဆိုၿပီးေတာ့ ထပ္ၾကားပါတယ္ခင္ဗ်။ ဒါေပမဲ့ tariff reform လုပ္မယ္ဆိုၿပီး ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ၾကားေနတာက ဒီႏွစ္ေတြမွာ ၂ ႀကိမ္ ၃ ႀကိမ္ေလာက္ရွိပါၿပီခင္ဗ်။ အခုဒီ reform မွာလဲ ဘယ္ေတာ့ေလာက္ျဖစ္မလဲ ျမန္ျမန္ျဖစ္မလားဆိုတာ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ေမွ်ာ္လင့္ထားတာကေတာ့ ဒီဟာေလး reform ျမန္ျမန္ၿပီးရင္ regional pricing ျဖစ္သြားလို႔ရွိရင္ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ႏိုင္ငံ အမ်ားႀကီးေကာင္းသြားမယ္လို႔ ယူဆပါတယ္။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ရဲ႕ေမးခြန္းကေတာ့ ၀န္ႀကီးအေနနဲ႔ဒီ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔မွာ အခက္အခဲျဖစ္ေနတဲ့ tariff ကို ဘယ္ေတာ့မ်ား ေျဖရွင္းႏိုင္ပါမလဲဆိုတာ။

U Thaung Tun:

အခုလို အေရးႀကီးတဲ့ ေမးခြန္းကို ေမးေပးတာကို အမ်ားႀကီးေက်းဇူးတင္ပါတယ္။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ႏိုင္ငံ ဖြံ႔ၿဖိဳးတိုးတက္ဖို႔ဆိုလို႔ရွိရင္ေတာ့ လၽွပ္စစ္ရွိဖို႔လိုပါတယ္။ လၽွပ္စစ္ရွိမွသာလ်င္ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ရဲ႕ ဖြံ႔ၿဖိဳးေရးလုပ္ငန္းေတြကို ေဆာင္ရြက္လို႔ရမွာ ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ No development without energy, that is a given. အဲ့ဒါေၾကာင့္မို႔လို႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ လၽွပ္စစ္လိုပါတယ္။ လွ်ပ္စစ္ရဖို႔ဆိုရင္လည္း ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ နည္းအမ်ိဳးမ်ိဳးအခု ႀကံဖန္ၿပီးေတာ့ ေဆာင္ရြက္ေနပါတယ္။ အခုဆိုရင္ဘဲ မ်ားမၾကာမီကာလမွာ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ရခိုင္ကမ္းလြန္ေဒသ ဒီ A6 အကြက္ကေနၿပီးေတာ့ ရမဲ့သဘာ၀ဓာတ္ေငြ႔ကို ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ကုန္းေပၚပို႔ၿပီးေတာ့ အဲ့ဒီကေနၿပီးေတာ့ လၽွပ္စစ္ကို ထုတ္လုပ္ႏိုင္မယ္လို႔ ေမွ်ာ္လင့္ပါတယ္။ ဒီဟာကေတာ့ ေနာက္ေလးႏွစ္ေလာက္ေတာ့ ၾကာပါအံုးမယ္။ ၾကားထဲမွာလဲ ဒီစြမ္းအင္၀န္ႀကီးဌာနအေနနဲ႔ ဒီ energy ကို သြင္းၿပီးေတာ့မွ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ႏိုင္ငံကို လိုအပ္တဲ့စြမ္းအင္ေတြေပးဖို႔ ေဆာင္ရြက္ေနတာကို ကၽြန္ေတာ္ အသိေပးခ်င္ပါတယ္။ ေစာေစာကေျပာတဲ့ ေမးခြန္းနဲ႔ ပက္သက္လို႔ကေတာ့ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ႏိုင္ငံမွာ ဒီလွ်ပ္စစ္ တစ္ယူနစ္ကို ၃၅ က်ပ္နဲ႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ေပးေနတာရွိပါတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီေတာ့ အဲ့ဒီလို ၃၅ က်ပ္နဲ႔ေပးတဲ့အတြက္ တစ္ယူနစ္ ထုတ္တိုင္းထုတ္တိုင္း ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ႏိုင္ငံကေနၿပီးေတာ့ အစိုးရကေနၿပီးေတာ့ စိုက္ေနရတဲ့ အေျခအေနျဖစ္ေနပါတယ္။ ဒါေၾကာင့္မို႔လို႔ ေစာေစာကေျပာတဲ့ us 500 million dollar ေလာက္ deficit ျဖစ္ေနတယ္ဆိုတာလည္း ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔သိရပါတယ္။ ဒါေၾကာင့္မို႔လို႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔က အေျဖရွာမွာျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီေတာ့ ေစာေစာကေျပာသလို ဘယ္ေတာ့လုပ္မွာလဲလို႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ့ကို ေမးရင္ေတာ့ I would have done it yesterday ဒါေပမဲ့ အဲ့ဒီဟာက ကၽြန္ေတာ္ရဲ႕ ဒီတာ၀န္မဟုတ္ပါဘူး သို႔ေသာ္လည္း ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ၀ိုင္းၿပီးေတာ့ အေျဖရွာေနပါတယ္။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ေျပာလို႔ ရတာကေတာ့ ဒီဟာကို အခုစဥ္းစားေနၿပီ ေဆာင္ရြက္ေနပါတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီေတာ့ ဒီလိုေဆာင္ရြက္ေနတာမွာလဲ ဘာအေရးႀကီးလဲဆိုေတာ့ ဆင္းရဲတဲ့အေျခခံလူတန္းစားကိုလည္း မထိခိုက္ေအာင္ေပါ့ေနာ္။ လူတိုင္းလူတိုင္းလဲ လွ်ပ္စစ္သံုးလို႔ ရေစရမယ္။ ေနာက္ၿပီးေတာ့ လုပ္ငန္းရွင္ေတြအေနနဲ႔ စီးပြားေရးလုပ္တဲ့လူေတြ အေနနဲ႔ေတာ့ ပိုေပးသင့္တယ္လို႔ေတာ့ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ထင္တယ္။ ေပးလဲေပးမွာပါ။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ဒီမွာရွိေနတဲ့လုပ္ငန္းရွင္ေတြလည္း ကုိယ့္ကိုကိုယ္ ဒီဇယ္နဲ႔ လွ်ပ္စစ္ထုတ္မယ္ဆိုလို႔ရွိရင္ အမ်ားႀကီးက်မွာျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ ဒီ ၃၅ က်ပ္မကေတာ့ ေပးက်ေပါ့။ ဒါေပမဲ့ မွ်တတဲ့ ေစ်းႏႈန္းျဖစ္ရမယ္။ ဒါေၾကာင့္မို႔လို႔ မွ်မ်ွတတလုပ္ႏိုင္မွသာလ်င္ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ႏိုင္ငံက ဒီဟာကို အသံုးခ်ၿပီးေတာ့ အရွိန္နဲ႔တိုးတက္မွာျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ ဒါေၾကာင့္မို႔လို႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ အဲ့ဒီ tariff ကို ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ အဖြဲ႔ဖြဲ႔ၿပီးေတာ့ စဥ္းစားေနပါတယ္။ ဘယ္လိုလုပ္ရင္ရမလဲဆိုတာ။ ေခတ္မွီနည္းပညာေတြ အမ်ားႀကီးရွိပါတယ္။ Metering ကို ေျပာင္းလိုက္ရင္ေတာင္ ေတာ္ေတာ္ေလးကၽြန္ေတာ္္တို႔ လုပ္လို႔ရတယ္။ ဥပမာအားျဖင့္ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ဒီ digital metering နဲ႔လုပ္လို႔ရွိရင္ ဟုတ္လား တခ်ိဳ႕ရပ္ကြက္ေတြမွာ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ ႏႈန္းတမ်ိဳးေပးလို႔ရတယ္။ ေနာက္ဒီ စက္မႈလုပ္ငန္းေတြအတြက္ဆို တမ်ိဳးေပးလို႔ရတယ္။ residential area ေတြ ဒီတက္ႏိုင္တဲ့ ပုဂၢိဳလ္ေတြေနတဲ့ ေနရာမွာဆိုရင္ ႏႈန္းတမ်ိဳးေပးလို႔ရတယ္။ ည နႈန္းတမ်ိဳးလုပ္လို႔ရတယ္။ ေန႔တမ်ိဳးလုပ္လို႔ရတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီေတာ့ ဒီေခတ္မွီနည္းပညာသံုးၿပီးေတာ့ digital meter ေျပာင္းရံုနဲ႔ေတာင္မွ ေတာ္ေတာ္ေလး အေျပာင္းအလဲျဖစ္လာပါတယ္။ ေစာေစာကေျပာတဲ့ tariff ကိုေတာ့ ေသေသခ်ာခ်ာစဥ္းစားေနပါတယ္။ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ အိမ္နီးနားခ်င္းႏိုင္ငံလိုမ်ိဳးဟုတ္လား Cambodia မွာေတာင္မွ အမ်ားႀကီး ေပးေနရတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီေတာ့ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔က ဒါျပည္သူေတြလည္း သိဖို႔လိုပါတယ္။ လွ်ပ္စစ္ဆိုတာကေတာ့ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔ သံုးရင္သံုးသေလာက္ကေတာ့ ေပးဖို႔ရွိပါတယ္။ ဥပမာအားျဖင့္ တယ္လီဖုန္းနဲ႔ ပက္သက္လို႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္တို႔က ၾကည္ၾကည္ျဖဴျဖဴနဲ႔ဘဲ တယ္လီဖုန္းခေတြ ေပးၿပီးေတာ့သံုးေနရင္ ကိုယ့္အိမ္မွာသံုးတဲ့ လွ်ပ္စစ္ဖိုးကိုလည္း ေပးဖို႔ဆိုတာကိုေတာ့ အဆင္သင့္ျဖစ္ဖို႔ေတာ့ ကၽြန္ေတာ္ေမွ်ာ္လင့္ပါတယ္။ လုပ္လည္းလုပ္ၾကမွာပါ။ တိုင္းျပည္ကေတာ့ အားလံုး၀ိုင္းၿပီးလုပ္ရင္ တိုးတက္မယ္လို႔ ကၽြန္ေတာ္မုခ် ယံုၾကည္ပါတယ္ခင္ဗ်။

Question Two: Good morning, and mingalabar to Union Minister U Thaung Tun. My name is Mr. Tim Wong. I am from the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce. I have two questions to ask.

I saw that the travel policy is open so Hong Kong, Macau, Japanese and Korean visitors don’t need visas for Myanmar. Also, China people [do not need] arrival visa to Myanmar.

An inconvenience, I find, is the currency exchange. If a Chinese visitor arrives in Yangon or Myanmar with no US currency, it is difficult for them to change Chinese renminbi [to kyats]. Another question is, the US currency needs to be [clean]. If the USD [notes] are problematic, we cannot use it for exchange.

When I arrived in Nay Pyi Taw [during the weekend], it was difficult to exchange USD currency because the banks are closed. If I want to change USD2,000 or 3,000, the airport exchange shop is closed. It is inconvenient.

My last question is about the Company Investment Law. I saw it has changed a lot. Local companies can enjoy 35% [foreigners’ shares]. But in the future, will the government [increase] the percentage? Maybe 50% or more [to allow] foreigners to join the local companies. This is my last question, thank you very much.

U Thura Ko Ko: This are real practical questions, Your Excellency. Perhaps as you answer them as we run out of time, you might also share your concluding remarks on investing in Myanmar if I could invite you to do that.

U Thaung Tun: Thank you very much. I think questions such as these are very important. These are very practical questions. We have opened our doors to business, we are also looking to attract more tourists to come to Myanmar. I think that is the reason why we have instituted this visa-free entry for our friends from the East – Japan, Korea, China, Macau and as well as visa on arrival for China and India, and 50 to 60 other countries that can have visa on arrival in Myanmar.

I have with me in this hall many bankers. We have YOMA Bank sitting right in front of me, and other bankers in the room so I will ask them to see if they can help us ensure that our visitors are able to change not just a thousand dollars but maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars when they arrive in Myanmar.

So, what we can probably do is, if they come with the Visa or Master or JCB or other international [credit] cards, they should be able to use those cards, that is one. There is NPU in Myanmar, they could probably link to NPU. I know the Chinese come with WeChat or AliPay. We are also trying ways and means to link it to our systems so that if you pay with AliPay or WeChat, it can be possible. And of course, if we can make HK dollars or Macau dollars or the Chinese Yuan convertible here in Myanmar, that will be very good too so I will leave that to the bankers, and the Central Bank, to work out something.

I can assure you that I am all for you. I will be with you, I want to make it easier for you to come, enjoy your stay here. If you are in Nay Pyi Taw for the first time, please do visit some hot springs from here, it will cost you only a couple of thousand of dollars but that should be good for the economy.

I want to assure you that we are working on it. This is a work in progress. Everything is not set in stone. We want to change, we want to move forward, we want to catch up with the world. We will change. You have seen change in a few weeks, you will see more change in the coming years. That is a message I want to give you.

With regard to closing remarks, I just want to repeat the words of the State Counsellor. It is time to invest in Myanmar. This is perhaps the last frontier, but the best last frontier. So please do try us out and see if it is win-win situation for all of you. Thank you very much.

U Thura Ko Ko: So, thank you very much, Your Excellency. On a personal note, I wanted to thank you and indeed your colleagues from the cabinet, and Regional Ministers. I have been to a number of these conferences, and I have never had so much accessibility to senior members.

We’ve had Vice Ministers manning booths almost all day yesterday, we’ve had regional government representatives on hand. It has been the most accessible. We won’t have all of the answers, but the fact that you and your colleagues are making an effort gives us heart and encouragement as a Myanmar citizen.

Just a reminder for the press, there is a media conference available with the minister in the media room if you want to make your way there. Otherwise, Your Excellency, thank you very much.

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