Myanmar stand by Dawei project

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NAY PYI TAW : A senior Myanmar official brushed aside concerns that the Dawei deep-sea port and special economic zone (SEZ) will be scrapped for lack of financial support from Japan.

Set Aung, the deputy minister for national planning and economic development, said Japan is interested in Dawei, but many more feasibility studies must be conducted before the Japanese make an investment.

“Japan is interested, but they are very systematic,” Set Aung told the Bangkok Post.

“Although they haven’t been specific about things [the feasibility studies and master plans], to some extent those are done by Italian-Thai Development. The project definitely will happen.”

He said while Japan has given full commitment to the 2,000-hectare Thilawa SEZ, the sheer size of the 25,000-hectare Dawei project means it will take some time.

Meanwhile, steady progress has been made on Dawei, with the Thai and Myanmar governments working closely on a special-purpose vehicle (SPV) to manage the project.

The structure will give the two states equal ownership of the SPV, and Japan is also invited to be involved, said Set Aung, speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue with Myanmar businesses at the World Economic Forum.

He said his government is developing multidimensional policies to address investment issues such as labour and infrastructure.

“We came up with a lot of quick fixes, and they tended to solve the problems, but after a few years they led to other, more sophisticated problems,” he said, adding that policies in the zones are isolated and can be developed within a short span of a few years.

The first SEZ to be set up is Thilawa, south of Yangon, for which the state will start selling land by the end of the year.

Thadoe Hein, managing director of the Myanmar Awba Group, urged investors to look at opportunities in Myanmar’s agricultural sector, where businesses can be active in planting and harvesting through to distribution.

Openings include contract farming, land leasing, large-scale farming, farm machinery, fertiliser and seeds.

“But we need good international investors who are responsible and willing to assist our farmers and not looking to exploit their weaknesses simply by obtaining land and forcing them to leave,” said Thadoe Hein.

“They should have a long-term perspective and not just a quick win.”

He said Myanmar has 1 million acres of farmland, but its farmers are some of the poorest in the region, earning US$200 a tonne for rice.

The rice yield is half that of Thailand and Vietnam, and farmers have limited access to know-how and finance.

Wai Phyo, the managing director of Yathar Cho Industry, said Myanmar’s factory sector needs improvement, especially since it is the primary source of poverty alleviation.

Factories contribute 20-25% of the country’s gross domestic product, with food processing the biggest segment, but most businesses are labour-
intensive and make low- or medium-value products.

Source: Bangkok Post

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