The inaugural Invest Myanmar Summit 2019 closed recently with the Myanmar government’s commitment to creating a predictable, facilitative and friendly investment environment. The second day featured a star lineup of key figures involved in the planning and execution of Myanmar’s economic future.
The day’s sessions kicked off with a dialogue between H.E. U Thaung Tun, Union Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) and Chairman of Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), and U Thura Ko Ko, Managing Director, YGA Capital Limited. Following the casual, candid dialogue, U Aung Naing Oo, Director General, Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), MIFER delivered an overview of the changes the Union Government has made to improve the investment climate in Myanmar.
H.E U Set Aung, Deputy Minister of Planning and Finance, and U Min Ye Paing Hein, member of the National Economic Coordination Committee (NECC), also delivered insightful, detailed sessions explaining the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP) and the National Project Bank to the audience of local and international investors.
“We are on the cusp of the next revolution,” said U Thaung Tun. “Myanmar itself is preparing for the change and one of the first things we have done is to make the change and transformation in the economic sector”. He later elaborated, “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.” U Thaung Tun also touched on the intention to set up initiatives like the Land Bank, a public database to inform potential landowners on the details of available land. “That would be more transparent, and I think that would level the playing field for everybody who wants to invest in Myanmar,” he said.
U Thaung Tun also addressed concerns about investments in Rakhine State, stressing the need for “inclusive ways to bring together communities” through education, healthcare and job creation. “What we need to do, is to work together to develop Rakhine,” he urged. “It’s time to work together to have harmony…we will change the situation.”
For both international and local delegates, U Thaung Tun’s balanced optimism and can-do mindset were welcome indications of the direction Myanmar’s economic development was set to take. This was best summed up by Mr. Serge Pun @ U Theim Wai, Vice Chairman and CEO of New Yangon Development Company Limited, who commended the dialogue for giving “assurance on what the country intends to do about real change.”
Speaking on the government’s role in the National Project Bank, U Set Aung said, “Now is the time for implementation.” He added, “The Ministries and government agencies have always been very reactive in the past…and now all the Ministries will have to be a little more proactive [with their project and sectoral planning processes].”
In his closing remarks, U Set Aung told investors that the MSDP also aims to “provide [a] secure, conducive, investment-enabling environment.” He added, “All the procedures being practised by different government agencies have to change and have to be streamlined in order to develop proper SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).”
While providing a summary of the reforms that have been passed, U Aung Naing Oo also introduced the new Myanmar Investment Assistance Committee, a new initiative “that can handle all the grievances of investors”, and the Investment Monitoring Division, which is responsible for facilitating businesses in the country. “Protection is one of the most important factors for all investors,” he said, going on to include enhancing of transparency and predictability as other investor concerns the government took under consideration.
To round out the illuminating series of talks, the closing panel offered investors local and international perspectives from the private sector. Moderated by CDC Group’s Country Representative Daw Thiri Thant Mon, the panel featured Mr. Pun, Mr. Vikram Kumar, Country Manager for Myanmar and Thailand of the International Finance Corporation, Mr. Yuan Shaobin, Managing Director of CITIC Group (Myanmar) Co., Ltd., and Mr. Kunio Negishi, Chairman of Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Myanmar.
Mr. Kumar called the National Project Bank “the missing link” in Myanmar’s economic development. “It’s about time…a view is taken. Let’s structure fair concessions, let’s make competitive procurement, let’s make these projects happen. But without that kind of commitment and focus, I’m concerned we will have the same discussion three years down the road, and we will not have moved the needle,” he said.
“We think [Myanmar] is a huge opportunity for foreign investors,” said Mr. Yuan. “But try to balance [the needs and interests of] the people, the government and the investors themselves…while we profit as investors, we, at the same time try to do benefit to the local people, and the government.”
“I am very bullish about the future,” concluded Mr. Pun. “[At the Invest Myanmar Summit 2019] I feel like the mood has changed…right now, we have Chief Ministers who are coming on stage to solicit investors to come to their states to invest…that’s the change we are looking for.” He also advised caution for investors expecting immediate change, saying, “Change is not going to happen right away – one day it will happen. Please don’t lose hope. Keep trying. Be patient. It will get there.”
“Come now,” Mr. Negishi added to investors in his closing remarks. “And be prepared for a big explosion in Myanmar’s economy.”