Myanmar’s plans to bring the private sector on board for several infrastructure projects and implement measures to address the economic challenges they are currently facing were among the topics discussed recently between several senior government representatives and a team from Oxford Business Group (OBG).
The informal talks took place on the sidelines of the Euromoney Conference, which was held in Nay Pyi Taw last month.
Among those sharing their views with OBG’s representatives were: U Han Zaw, Minister of Construction; U Ohn Maung, Minister of Hotels and Tourism; U Thant Sin Maung, Minister of Transport and Communication; U Khin Maung Cho, Minister of Industry; and U Soe Min, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Myanmar.
Full interviews with some of the ministers will appear in The Report: Myanmar 2019, OBG’s sixth publication on the country’s economic development and investment opportunities, which is due out early next year.
Several topical issues were explored during the discussions, including the ongoing overhaul of Myanmar’s transport infrastructure, which ranges from the construction of new roads and bridges, to waterways and improvements planned for the country’s railway network.
U Han Zaw told OBG’s team that the Construction Industry Development Law, which is currently being drafted, and efforts to promote public-private partnerships for projects, are expected to combine to move forward these and other key initiatives, such as new industrial and logistics hubs.
The Yangon Ring Road, which is at the bidding stage, and the planned $2.5bn Yangon Central Railway Station project, were among the subjects discussed.
U Thant Sin Maung also highlighted the preparations under way that should extend the reach of the fibre-optic cable backbone network. The expansion of the network is expected to be instrumental in providing inhabitants of both urban and rural areas with increased access to telecom services, including those located in remote parts of the country. Operators will provide their services via the same cables under a sharing network scheme, which should benefit customers by making the market more competitive and pricing fairer.
In separate talks, U Khin Maung Cho brought OBG’s representatives up to date on moves to develop new industrial centers in Myanmar and reform the country’s labor laws, in a bid to attract new investors. The minister also said that negotiations to resume work at the Kyauk Phyu special economic zone, located in the state of Rakhine, and a separate hub in Dawei, sited in the Thanintharyi region, were finally moving forward.
Other topics broached included the Tourism Ministry’s plans to develop niche markets, such as the eco and homestay segments. U Ohn Maung told OBG’s team that the decision to grant free visas to arrivals from several Asian destinations, including Japan, South Korea and, from October 1, Hong Kong and Macau, is expected to help boost visitor numbers. He also noted the key part that the much-anticipated new Tourism Law should play in supporting private sector players who want to obtain licenses across key areas of the industry.
The challenging economic environment was another area of focus. U Soe Min discussed the central bank’s efforts to stabilize prices against a backdrop of rising inflation, while outlining the proposed remit of the newly established Myanmar Credit Bureau.
Commenting after the seminar, Patrick Cooke, OBG’s regional editor for Asia, said that with the difficult domestic economic climate having taken its toll on investment inflows, the group’s research would focus on whether measures implemented to reinvigorate investor sentiment were proving to be effective.
“Higher import costs, resulting from a decline in the value of the kyat, have weighed heavily on key areas of Myanmar’s economy, at a time when the international investment community remains concerned about the situation in Rakhine State,” he said. “However, while business leaders remain divided on the reasons for the currency problems, the steps taken by the government to stabilize the economy and set a growth target of between 5 and 6% for 2018 appear to have been given a broadly positive reception, which could improve help investor confidence.”
The Report: Myanmar 2019 will be a vital guide to the many facets of the country, including its macroeconomics, infrastructure, banking and other sectoral developments.
The publication will contain a detailed, sector-by-sector guide for investors, alongside contributions from leading personalities.