Myanmar: Businesses push for better communications with Nay Pyi Taw

THE government should update the business community with the latest economic activities and manage the expectations, according to domestic and foreign investors at a recent investment forum held in the country’s capital.

Investors in Myanmar would like to see a push towards further liberalisation of the economy. More people are taking part in the private sector and are investing in infrastructure projects, which serve as a major driver for the national economy.

In the meantime, businesses are frustrated by the lack of clarity concerning rules and regulations, as well as the delays in reform efforts. Some important pieces of legislation, such as the new Companies Act, have been delayed.

Investors made the comments at the Myanmar Global Investment Forum, which was organised by Euromoney on September 12 and 13 in Nay Pyi Taw.

“I think there’s a danger in waiting for that perfect legislation,” U Thura Ko Ko, managing director of YGA Capital, said.

The government presented its long-awaited 12-point economic policy on July 29 last year, highlighting the importance of developing a market-oriented system “in all sectors” and establish an economic framework in support of national reconciliation. Stakeholders looking for a detailed timeline or structured plan were left disappointed.

A year has passed since the release, but the business community is still waiting for more detailed policies to be announced and for the government to follow up on its priorities among the 12 points.

The National League for Democracy-led government took office with the tasks of collecting new information and statistics. The process inevitably takes time. But some investors see that economic growth has stagnated because of that.

Others defended the new government’s legacy, arguing that the administration has focused on stabilising the macroeconomic landscape and tackling inflation. However, those who defended the administration stressed that it is time Nay Pyi Taw announces its priorities to follow up the 12 points.

“We accept that the 12 points are really good for our economy if it can be implemented. But in the meantime, the government needs to provide information regarding three or four sectors among the 12-point economic policy,” U Thura Ko Ko said.

Significant progress

For Myanmar businesses, the next few years present a good opportunity, when the government re-focuses its efforts on the economy and when it’s still growing fast without too much foreign competition, Melvyn Pun, chief executive officer of Yoma Strategic, observed.

“I want to express my own opinion: I actually see significant progress in the country. Laws and regulations are moving in the right direction but maybe it has been slowed down,” he said.

There has also been a lack of communication which adds a layer of uncertainty regarding what is happening.

“I think better communication would be good. They are making pretty good progress on communications, having the two-way dialogue, seeking ideas and advice on how the government can improve.

“We are seeing a lot more [happening] in the last few months and I hope that the government will continue in this direction, but large businesses are very keen for more. I think we are all quite eager for the next phase of economic growth, so the government needs to do more,” Mr Pun said.

Peter Beynon, country chair of Jardine Matheson and chair of British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar, suggested that it is important for the government to manage expectations. They need to provide information about what they are going to do and what they have achieved, rather than just announcing what their plans.

The Myanmar government needs to ‘talk the talk’ and ‘work the work’ because actions speak louder than words. If the government really wants to show change, it needs to give more information. 

– Peter Beynon, Jardine Matheson 

U Tun Tun Naing, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Finance responded that Nay Pyi Taw has already distributed 95 action plans, which derive from the 12-point economy policy, to the respective ministries.

The government has no room to pick three priorities as the country needs development on many sectors.

– U Tun Tun Naing, Ministry of Planning and Finance 

“The government has no room to pick three priorities as the country needs development on many sectors. The action plans are already under the implementation process. The new government has never stopped carrying out its economic reforms since it took office,” he said.

U Tun Tun Naing suggested that it is not the government which is taking time but the investors.

“I would like to advise the local and international investors if they are still waiting for the perfect legislations, please just come in now. There is nothing to lose by coming in and investing,” he recommended.