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Investors must look long term, says deputy minister

Thursday, 28 March 2013 14:23 The Bangkok Post

Foreign direct investment (FDI) will play a crucial role for Myanmar in its bid to catch up and keep pace with regional development, but companies still need responsible long-term investors, says a high-ranking official from that country.
Dawei Economic Zone. Photo:
Set Aung, the deputy minister for national planning and economic development, said environmental protection is a top priority for sustainable development.

''We can't have 100% economic development at the expense of the environment, but we also can't have the opposite. We have to tap into [clean] technology to assure a balanced investment,'' he said yesterday [March 27].

Set Aung made his remarks at a seminar in Bangkok entitled ''Shaping Business Leaders for a New Myanmar'', hosted by Chulalongkorn University's Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone is important not only for Myanmar and Thailand but all of Asean, he said.

Under joint development by the two neighbours, both governments are inviting third parties to become involved in the project, which is part of the Southern Economic Corridor of the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Myanmar's Industry Ministry said the country now has 18 industrial zones with another seven under construction.

Chanvit Amatamatucharti, deputy secretary-general of Thailand's National Economic and Social Development Board, said the Dawei project will facilitate labour-intensive industries relocating to Myanmar, providing an opportunity for those remaining in Thailand to increase their use of technology.

Upstream steel factories that face strong opposition from Thai communities can instead be built in Myanmar, with the output sent to Thailand's automobile and electronics sectors.

A 2009 study by the Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia showed the Dawei project will help to boost Thai gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.9%.

Set Aung said FDI in Myanmar amounted to US$42.1 billion as of Feb 28, with the power sector ranking first at $19.2 billion.

China is the largest foreign investor with 43 projects totalling $14 billion, followed by Thailand at $9.5 billion.

Last year, agriculture accounted for 43% of Myanmar's GDP of $54.1 billion, followed by services (36.6%) and industry (20.5%).

Myanmar plans to increase industry's GDP proportion to 32% under its five-year plan ending in 2016.

Alfredo Perdiguero, a principal economist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila, said Thai businesses with the potential to expand in Myanmar include those in the manufacturing, tourism, power, education, telecommunications and road transport sectors.

Myanmar may be reluctant to form joint ventures with Thai banks but will have to if they want to learn from their Thai counterparts' experience.

This article first appeared in The Bangkok Post on March 28, 2013.

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