Amid Political Challenges, Myanmar Prizes UK Investment for Economic Renewal
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The Myanmar Times
UK expertise is seen as particularly vital for Myanmar to develop a strong financial services sector and to build a competitive education system which can prepare the country’s young population for the challenges ahead.
The Department of International Trade (DIT) organised an outward mission to the UK in March, led by U Kyaw Myo, deputy transport and communications minister. The delegation included a dozen officials and 27 business representatives, who met with over 150 British businesses to explore potential commercial opportunities.
In a wide-ranging interview, U Aung Naing Oo, director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), spoke to the Myanmar Times about bilateral trade and investment opportunities between the two countries and the government’s latest priorities. He also responded to criticisms and concerns among the private sector regarding the slow pace of reforms.
British trade and investment interest mainly focuses on education, energy, financial services and infrastructure in Myanmar. “Infrastructure is one of the key areas for British investors to come and invest,” U Aung Naing Oo said. The delegation met policymakers and consultants in London and visited one of the UK’s airports to look at how domestic airports can be upgraded to cater for further demand.
Education is another sector which presents immediate opportunities for British businesses. On 20 April 2018, the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) announced it will permit foreigners to make full capital investments in private schools across the country. Foreigners can hence fully own and operate private schools teaching a curriculum prescribed by the education ministry or an international curriculum. British service providers, as well as those from other countries, are allowed to invest in basic education schools, technical, vocational and training schools, higher education schools, subject-based schools and private schools.
The new Companies Law, enacted in December 2017, will be enforced in August 2018 and seeks to further cut red tape.
“The Companies Law will be enforced on August 1. The Companies Law paves the way for all foreign investors to come and work together with Myanmar local companies.
“A lot of barriers and restrictions will be removed for foreigners in doing business in Myanmar by using our new Companies Law,” he remarked. It will allow foreign entities to take up to a 35-percent stake in domestic companies and open up the Yangon Stock Exchange for non-Myanmar investors.
“So there are a lot of expectations, especially on the Companies Law, from British investors, because our Companies Law is actually based on the British common law system and based on the 1914 Companies Act [formerly the Burma Companies Act].
“Definitely, once the Companies Law is enforced, there will be more investments from the UK, particularly in the financial services sector, and probably in the education sector.”
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