UK-Myanmar Round Table Meeting

On 18th February DMA was privileged to host a small round table meeting at the Reform Club for an incoming delegation from Myanmar led by the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, U Sett Aung, and U Aung Naing Oo, Secretary of MIC, Myanmar’s Investment Promotion Agency (the body which approves FDI) and Director of DICA which is the Burmese equivalent of Companies House.

In less than five years Myanmar has moved from being an isolated and relatively impenetrable state for outside business to now being touted as one of the most favoured destinations for investment in the ASEAN region over the next five years. This dramatic turnaround began in March 2011 when a new largely civilian government was installed, overturning nearly 50 years of military rule under which the country had stagnated. Recognition soon followed from the United States, including visits by Hillary Clinton and President Obama, and from the European Union. Most recently, the Mayor of the City of London, Alan Yarrow, visited Myanmar with a UK delegation to promote British goods and business.

The Deputy Governor and the delegation were in London to speak to British businesses with a focus on inward investment into Myanmar’s special economic zones (SEZs) and investment into the country’s ambitious infrastructure requirements. In his presentation, the Deputy Governor was clear that Myanmar 2015 is still work in progress but that major efforts are being made to make the country more attractive to outside investors; the establishment of the first Special Economic Zone – of which the Deputy Governor is also Chairman – within which special laws and incentives will apply; the development of capital markets; new vocational training centres; moves to make tendering and bidding for contracts more transparent; the establishment of a Petroleum Fund (aided by Norway) to ensure that the financial benefits from offshore oil and gas deposits are not frittered away; and the potential that Myanmar will join the Extractive Industries Transparent Initiative (EITI) in the near future.

To achieve these institutional changes, the Deputy Governor said that the Myanmar government has been looking a wide variety of structures in various countries and endeavouring to draw upon those which they felt were both successful and most applicable to the Myanmar environment. These include the creation of a PPP Committee and the development of a form of one-stop shop within the investment agency to help smooth the path for investors through Myanmar’s financial and legal systems.

Of the 20 participating companies at the round table several complimented the government in Nyipyidaw on the progress it had made in a very short period, while echoing the Deputy Governor’s comment that the country has made only a few steps on a long road. Nevertheless, the impression left was that the interest and the cautionary plaudits given the country by many observers are well founded. Myanmar, with its richness of natural resources, its opportunities to expand sectors such as tourism, and its genuine wish now to re-engage with the global business community, make it one to watch for the rest of this decade.