One-year performance of Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations
ON 19 November, 2018, with President Office Notification No. 87/2018, the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations was formed and now it has reached its first year anniversary. During their one-year process, the ministry had endeavoured to make investment processes more efficient and establish good investment environments.
The following interview is with U Thaung Tun, the Union Minister who heads the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations and their efforts to develop the investment and economic sector in the one year since their formation.
Q: What did the ministry do in the one-year process? A: Our Ministry was formed in November 2018. Now it has crossed its one year mark. There are two departments in the ministry. The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) is stationed in Yangon. The main task is to make companies first formed for investment processes more efficient. The headquarters is in Yangon and there are branch es in the states and regions. So, in total there are 15 branches in the states, regions and Nay Pyi Taw. There are 480 staff in DICA and the Union Minister’s office has 50 staff.
A: There were many processes done during one year. We have over 700 staff in the national context. We strove to make our work effective with the human resource we had. And our endeavours brought improvement. And improvement brought billions in investment into the country. To achieve this, we have to elevate investment. We have to work hard both at home and abroad. We held investment forums in Kayin State, Kayah State, Rakhine State, Shan State, Ayeyawady Region, Mandalay Region and Yangon Region. Chin State is difficult to get to so their forum was held in Yangon instead. There will be another in Taninthayi Region. We are also working to go abroad to invite investment. We need more staff to expand our work. We want to increase our staff if possible. Currently, we hired permanent secretaries because we didn’t have any, and also for directors-general. We will appoint full staff for other areas as well.
Only then can we reach our intended goal. We also try to increase interest from neighbouring countries. We also explain and clarify to attract. We went to Thailand, China, South Korea and Japan last year. We also explained our nation’s actual situation to UK, France, Japan, Germany and Italy. We tell them improvement for economic environment. There has been interest. For example, big companies have entered Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Yangon. Famous Japanese companies Toyota and Suzuki too. In addition, pharmaceuticals and electric companies are also entering Myanmar. We are also setting up industrial zones to increase employment for the public. We have approved a large industrial zone with Thailand. There’s also an industrial zone with South Korea. When the ROK President arrived on a friendly visit here in September, an agreement was made to construct the Korea Myanmar Industrial Complex. ROK has lent us US$ 1 billion at an affordable interest rate. The interest is only at 0.01% and across 40 years. When our leaders went to China, there was also a lending of 1 billion Chinese Yuan. The EU also provided an interest-free loan of Euro 231 million to invest in our education sector. Our ministry had to negotiate and work to achieve these situations. You can see the success being achieved. Similarly, we are also working with UN agencies. There are also successes with UNDP and WFP. These processes can reduce poverty in our country, elevate the education sector, conduct anti malaria campaign, and supply more medicine for HIV/ AIDS. In short, while it’s true that we need to stand on our own feet for development in our country, cooperation will get the job done faster. That is why we want to invite private businesses to work with us. We also invite international partnerships.
Q: According to your explanations, your ministry’s work is quite expansive. Are there challenges to getting all this work done?
A: There are certain challenges. Myanmar is implementing Sustainable Development Plans for its development. We have to negotiate to succeed in our work. On 4 and 5 December, we are coordinating with relevant ministries, foreign assisting organizations and private businesses. If we can make the coordination a success these days, we believe this will make our work more expansive in the coming years. The meeting held at Myanmar International Convention Center-II in Nay Pyi Taw is for implementing the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan comprehensively and to bring benefits to our people. We must cooperate for development with cooperating nations, organizations and private businesses. To implement the projects, we need to utilize national budget in addition to private sector involvement. We also need to cooperate with international organizations and affiliated nations that can assist us. If the results here are good, then there will be increased business investments and that is why we are giving our time and energy for this. But we need more staff in our ministry to carry out the work with vigour. We are also discussing for this. In the previous financial year, economic investment was at US$4.5 billion. We expect it to increase in the coming year and we need a larger workforce to make that increase.
Q: Trade and investment are related. Can you explain how investment will assist in promoting exports?
A: Our GDP rose markedly last year. The GDP used to be 6—6.5% but we expect it to rise to 6.8% in the next year. These rates were said by the World Bank. Their report also said this is due to the increase in domestic/ foreign investment. Trade has also increased. We have trade by land with neighbouring countries and through sea routes as well. Most of the investors here aim to export products from our country. The textile business is one example. But it’s no longer limited to just textile manufacturers. The businesses have proliferated. There are manufacturing for shoes, sportswear and traveling bags. There have been more improvements then before. There are also automobile assemblies in our country now.
Not only do our people get more employment but investments also increase. Exports also go up. This is why investment brings a lot of benefit for trade as well as within the nation. You can see electric equipment being produced domestically and exported abroad.
Q: How is the ministry forming good investment environments?
A: Like I’ve mentioned before, the World Bank categorizes 190 nations every year on ease of investing there. We have reached the top 100 and Vice President U Myint Swe is leading on that front. There have been some improvements this year and we hope for more in the future. It used to be hard to establish a company in the past but online registration with the birth of MyCO has made it immensely easier. We have also enacted a law that protects investment here. We are also working to make permit issuance faster. Building permits can be applied online in Yangon Region and that has made work faster.
FROM : GLOBAL NEW LIGHT